Impact of foreign IT workers

Temporary skilled workers in information technology come to the U.S. primarily through the H-1B program, which critics have said depresses wages of native born workers and crowds them out. The number of H-1B workers in the U.S. and in IT jobs can only be estimated and may be several hundred thousand. The federal government estimated for IT programmers, software developers and managers there were in 2014 540,000 foreign born workers out of close to two million workers.

According to a research paper released in February, H-1B workers depress the wages all IT workers, and cause native born workers to go into other fields. The study estimates these impacts to be moderate. But the study also said they increase the total number of IT workers. It said that IT spurs the entire economy, so that the entire economy, and hence jobs, expands. It raises the profits of IT firms, in particular the very large ones.

The IT industry is a leading industry in that its impact, of several million workers, spreads through the entire economy of some 150 million workers.  Steam powered transportation in the 19th century, and internal combustion engines for most of the 29th century, were leading industries, by for example greatly lowering transportation and manufacturing costs.

“The largest part of these H1Bs went into information technology,” says Giovanni Peri, professor of economics at UC-Davis. “And what we estimate essentially is that by contributing to innovation and growth in that sector it contributes to the productivity of all workers because in the 1990s and 2000s the large part of college educated workers really used this type of technology.”



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