H-1Bs Play Roles in the US Labor Market and the Indian Marriage Market

By David North on May 1, 2018

The Trump Administration will not reduce the number of arriving H-1Bs, this year; the ceiling for most of them remains at 85,000.

The administration has announced that it is thinking of terminating employment permission for some 100,000 or so spouses of H-1B workers, but has not done so yet.

Despite these bits of evidence of overall program stability, an Indian publication has this headline:

How Donald Trump will spoil marriage prospects of Indian techies

The article in The Economic Times begins this way:

Indian IT engineers have been prized catches in the marriage market but slowly they are losing their hot status ... [A]n ad placed by the parents of a prospective Tamil bride in a matrimonial column ended thus: "(Seeks) IAS/IPS, doctor, businessman. Software engineers kindly do not call."

There is nothing explicit in the article about the remarkable biases in the H-1B market for young Indian males and for those from the southern part of the nation, but The Economic Times' writing simply assumes this tilt is well known. The "prize catches" are assumed to be male and the Tamil looking for a spouse is a woman.

A little subcontinent background is needed here. Tamils are an Indian population, primarily if not exclusively Hindu, who live in the southern part of the country (as well as in Sri Lanka). IAS stands for the Indian Administrative Service (the upper end of the civil service) and IPS for Indian Police Service. Arranged marriages are common.

All of this, as well as frequent reports of the slackening of interest by foreign students in U.S. universities, suggests that an administration's verbiage, as well as its actual policies, can make a difference in migration flows.

A non-Trump supporter, such as I am, can view the president's language and bluster to be, simultaneously, both regrettable and effective.