Boston Fed Research Provides New Profile of Regional Demand for H-1B Visas
Report identifies range of uses for H-1B visa program; calls for clearer policy goals
New research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's New England Public Policy Center provides an unprecedented analysis of the regional demand for H-1B visas. The report, released today at a policy forum held at the Boston Fed, finds that New England has some of the highest levels of H-1B visa demand nationwide (relative to employment) due to significant demand from metropolitan areas in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Proponents of the H-1B visa program argue for an increase in the number of H-1B visas to allow businesses to compete globally for the "best and brightest" talent. Others express concern that the program allows firms to employ guest workers at lower wages and is heavily used by outsourcing firms. The Boston Fed's analysis shows that neither group is completely right: in New England, the H-1B visa has multiple uses.
"Current policy discussions about how to improve the H-1B program suffer from limited analysis of its intended use in the region," said Robert Clifford, Senior Policy Analyst at the New England Public Policy Center and author of the report. "Our analysis of the demand for these visas illustrates that there are a myriad of uses for the program and suggests the need for clearer policy goals."
The report finds that the driving force behind the demand for H-1B visas in New England is employers seeking computer and mathematics workers: over half of such requests are in these occupations, generally from technology companies. Connecticut had the highest demand for these workers relative to employment, with requests exceeding 5 percent of the computer and mathematics workforce. The demand for science and engineering workers was highest in the Boston and Worcester labor markets, but requests of this nature represent a smaller share of those areas' science and engineering workforce.
Additionally, Clifford finds that a small number of outsourcing firms account for large shares of H-1B requests in a handful of New England's metro areas, principally attributed to computer systems design and related services firms with little physical presence in New England. A number of Connecticut labor markets have large shares of requests from the firms identified in the report as potential outsourcing firms.
The report's recommendations include developing clearer policy goals for the H-1B visa program to support more coherent criteria for admitting highly skilled guest workers. This, Clifford's report argues, will provide a more solid framework for determining the desired admission levels.
The full report and details about H-1B visa demand in 372 metropolitan areas are now available here.