H-1B Hiring: Bias within Bias, Discrimination within Discrimination

By David North, February 10, 2017

The employers in the H-1B program (for foreign college grad workers, mostly in IT) say that they must have unlimited access to the world's best and brightest or else America's advances in technology will come to a screeching halt.

But what they, do, in fact, is to hire a remarkably high percentage of their workers who just happen to be:

  • Young,
  • Male, and
  • From just three southern Indian states.

The employers' objective, of course, is to cut costs, taking hundreds of thousands of good jobs from residents of the United States.

Residents of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, as we will show, have 24 times the chance of being hired as an H-1B as the average resident of the world, excluding U.S. workers, who, of course, have zero chance of being hired in this program.

By definition, no U.S. citizen or green card holder can be hired under the H-1B program; it is totally for alien workers, those called nonimmigrants. The program, 100 percent, all day/all night/all year discriminates against Americans.

The H-1B program does not just discriminate against Americans generally (including Asian-Americans) it discriminates in favor of aliens from Asia. According to State Department statistics, 60 percent of the world's population lives in Asia, but 86.7 percent of the new H-1Bs in 2015 came from Asia.

And the H-1B program does not just discriminate in favor of Asians, generally, it discriminates in favor of those from India, who account for 69.4 percent of all H-1Bs.

And the H-1B program does not just favor people from India, it favors men from that country. Our government, perhaps on purpose (as a big, silent favor to the H-1B employers?) does not collect data on this variable, but Associate Dean of Tuft University's engineering school Karen Panetta, Ph.D., a vice president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), a professional group, has testified before Congress on the generally accepted view within the industry that a large majority of the H-1Bs are males.

More precisely, the H-1B program favors young males. In fact, more than half of initial hires in the H-1B program (worldwide) in 2014 were 29 or younger, according to a USCIS publication:

  • Under 24: 8.58 percent;
  • 25-29: 42.34 percent;
  • 30-34: 31.00 percent; and
  • 35-plus: 18.08 percent.

It is a remarkable commentary that in this peculiar part of the labor market, an older worker is one who has passed his or her 35th birthday. Younger workers cost less than older ones, so many H-1B employers prefer young foreign workers to older (35-plus) Americans. Further, because of their legal status, nonimmigrants are more pliable (i.e., more indentured) than U.S. workers.

If one looks more carefully at these selections, it becomes clear that the system does not just prefer young males from India, it prefers young male Indians from areas where the Hindu religion is strong (a bit stronger than it is in the balance of the Republic). According to unpublished State Department data, the three Indian states (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka) hosting two of the five U.S. consulates in India (Chennai and Hyderabad) that provided more than 59 percent of the H1-B visas issued in 2016 in India were 84.0 percent to 88.5 percent Hindu, compared to about 79 percent for India, generally. (The new state of Telangana, which recently split off from Andhra Pradesh, is still considered to be a part of the older state in these calculations.)

Stated another way, and using the same databases, the system not only favors young, Hindu males from India, it favors those from just the three southern Indian states served by those two consulates.

The total population of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka comes to about 218 million. About 70 percent of H-1B visas are granted to India, and 60 percent of those go to these three states. Think about the difference between those two numbers for a moment; 42 percent of the worldwide total of H-1Bs come from southern India, which has only 3.0 % of the world's population.

This means that an individual in one of those states has 24 times the chance of securing an H-1B slot as someone living in the rest of the world. And, of course, they have an infinitely better chance for securing an H-1B job than any American because the latter are, by definition, barred from the program.

I showed these numbers to one of my informants, a one-time H-1B from that part of the world, and he told me that I was probably seriously understating the degree of concentration in southern India, on the grounds that many H-1B hopefuls with less than spectacular credentials try for a visa at one of the other three U.S. consulates in India because consular officials in Hyderabad and Chennai are considered tougher in their vetting of would-be H-1Bs.

Further, my informant said, you have not even considered the preferences by caste, which he said favored the Brahmins. (I cannot find any data on that point.)

Speaking of Brahmins, were the U.S. government to tolerate a hiring program that gave strong preference to white males; or to white, Anglo-Saxon males; or more specifically to those WASP males from New England whose daddies and grand-daddies had attended Ivy League colleges, there would be hell to pay. And rightly so.

But a similar program, tilted for young, Hindu males from southern India does not generate similar criticism. Is there a whiff of political correctness here? Or are these numbers simply not known to the public or to Congress?

Why are we seeing these hiring patterns in the first place?

There are several factors at work here: India provides a bachelor's level education to more people than the Indian economy can support; virtually all of them speak English; a very large portion of the H-1Bs are hired by Indian outsourcing companies; many of these firms are run by people from southern India; and Congress and, at least until now, the White House, has paid much more attention to the desires of the employers than the needs of the American workers who lose jobs to the H-1Bs.

And all of these factors reinforce each other over time, giving added momentum to the strong southern Indian preference in hiring for these jobs.

To further support the hiring preferences shown above we have an immigration law that allows blatant ethnic discrimination. Some of the outsourcing companies hire 99 percent of their H-1Bs from India, as CIS and Computerworld have previously reported, while some others just hire 97 percent.

Maybe, just maybe, the new administration will notice and do something about it, like reducing the H-1B program to a justifiable one that deals with really unusual needs in the American work place, not just the wage-cutting hiring of computer programmers, largely from southern India.

Can the Trump administration resist the siren calls of Silicon Valley, and the lobbying of the Indian government — both calling for an expansion of the program? We can only hope so.

Editor's note: This posting has been edited since its original publication.