There would have been up to 11% more computer science jobs at wages up to 5% higher were it not for the immigration program that brings in foreign high-skilled employees, a new study finds.
The study comes at a sensitive time, as tech titans including Facebook battle the immigration restrictions put forward by President Donald Trump. Though Trump has focused initially on restricting refugees, the fate of high-skilled immigrants is a matter of intense debate in the current Congress.
The paper — by John Bound and Nicolas Morales of the University of Michigan and Gaurav Khanna of the University of California, San Diego — was conducted by studying the economy between 1994 and 2001, during the internet boom. It was also a period where the recruitment of so-called H-1B labor was at or close to the cap and largely before the onset of the vibrant IT sector in India.
In 2001, the number of U.S. computer scientists was between 6.1%-10.8% lower and wages were between 2.6% and 5.1% lower.
Of course, there also were beneficiaries — namely consumers and employers. Immigration lowered prices by between 1.9% and 2.4%, and profits increased as did the total number of IT firms.
As a working paper, it hasn’t been peer reviewed, and the authors allowed their model is too simple to allow for policy evaluations of alternatives
by Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch’s Washington bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter @MKTWgoldstein.