Foreign Talent Doesn’t Harm U.S. Workers

According to a June 2021 policy brief by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) “U.S.-born IT professionals and computer and information systems majors continued to earn, on average, substantially more than other professional workers and other majors.” The brief also touches on the effect of foreign talent on the U.S. job market.

No Competition from Foreign-Born IT Professionals

This research, done by economist Madeline Zavodny, used data from the Current Population Survey, American Community Survey, and National Survey of College Graduates.

It helps to address the argument put forth by some, that foreign-born workers are creating competition that disadvantages U.S.-born IT professionals. Whether that argument cites offshoring of U.S. jobs or a rise in immigration to the U.S. of foreign-born workers, at least in the IT and computer-related fields that argument does not hold up.

On the contrary, it seems that U.S.-born IT professionals are experiencing a stable, and even growing, earning potential in their field of expertise. Further, there is no evidence to illustrate that highly educated immigrants are harming U.S. workers.

Zavodny comments that the opposite is actually more likely to be true:

“Indeed, studies show that highly educated U.S. natives may even see their earnings increase as a result of highly skilled immigration since it can boost firms’ productivity, spur additional innovation, prompt more U.S. natives to move into communications-intensive jobs that are their comparative advantage, and slow offshoring by U.S. firms, among other benefits.”

Immigration of foreign-born talent to the U.S. is really a benefit for U.S. workers, at least in IT and computer-related fields. As Forbes concludes, H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants need not be viewed as a threat to U.S. workers, a viewpoint which hopefully guides policymakers to avoid proposing legislation that harms the ability of foreign-born workers to come to the U.S.

Earning Potential of IT Professionals

The research also concludes that individuals who hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a computer-related field tend to earn more than their peers in STEM and non-STEM fields.

Just how much more? Let’s look at the numbers.

  • Median earnings of IT professionals (with at least a bachelor’s degree) were 40% higher than median earnings of other professionals.
  • IT professionals earn significantly more than their counterparts in other professions, even when taking into account differences in demographics, residence, and industry of employment.
  • Median earnings of college graduates with a computer-related major are 35% higher than other STEM majors and 83% higher than non-STEM majors.
  • The gap between the earning potential of graduates with a computer and information systems (CIS) major and other STEM majors has widened.

H-1B Work Visa Woes

This is welcomed news, since the H-1B visa program designed for skilled foreign workers in specialty occupations to come work in the U.S. temporarily, experienced a bit of a rough patch under the previous administration. On March 31, 2021, the H-1B work visa ban, imposed by the Trump administration, was allowed to expire by President Biden.

The argument for limiting foreign-national talent’s access to U.S. jobs was summed up by Bloomberg, which stated that “temporary work visas are unpopular with labor unions and other worker groups who argue that they put American workers at a disadvantage to their foreign counterparts.” Instead, foreign-born IT professionals are used by American technology firms like Facebook and Google to work alongside U.S. workers, not as a means of replacing U.S.-born IT professionals.

All Workers Are Needed

The key takeaway is that both U.S-born professionals and foreign-born workers are needed to help the U.S. economy successful recovery from the devastating effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic. If we treat foreign talent as an opportunity and not as a threat, it is likely to benefit everyone in the long run.

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