A new study from academic economists at Colgate University and UC-Davis shows wages rise fastest in U.S. cities with the greatest influx of highly skilled immigrants.
Highly skilled people tend to make and spend more money, raising everyone's standard of living. The study found U.S. cities with the greatest increase of immigrants specializing in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professions saw wage increases of 7 percent for college-educated, native-born Americans, and 3 percent for the non-college-educated population.
Besides spending more money on goods and services, demand for these immigrants' skills often pushes salaries higher in other fields. However, we artificially limit these workers by imposing a cap on H1-B visas.
The current level is 65,000, plus another 20,000 with advanced degrees. When the H1-B visa application opens in the spring, the slots are usually filled in less than a week, creating a huge waiting list.
Why the cap? There are technology companies where jobs go unfilled just because they can't find qualified applicants. Ideally, Congress should remove the H1-B visa cap entirely, or at least start by phasing it out. Unfortunately, the politics of immigration reform are less clear than the economics.
The writer is a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation (ipi.org).
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