Sometimes we have to use a mirror to get a good picture; as in a man making sure his tie is straight, or a woman checking on her lipstick.
I was reminded of that the other day when I saw the brand-new data published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — it dealt, mirror-like, with a long-standing problem, the discrimination against women shown by most H-1B employers.
For decades, the government and H-1B employers hid the problem of gender bias by simply not releasing any data on the subject. The new leadership at USCIS, I gather, will release gender data on the H-1B filings this spring — and that's very good news — but we are months away from seeing those figures.
In the meantime — here's where the mirror comes in — new data on the spouses of many of the most senior H-1Bs shows that the spouses are 93.3 percent female, suggesting that their spouses, the H-1B workers, must be about 93.3 percent male. (Conceivably there are some same-sex marriages among the H-1B population, but I doubt this is much of a factor.)
The newly released data deals more specifically with a subset of the H-1B spouses; they hold H-4 visas and their spouses are on the long green card waiting lists. These people can be granted Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), unlike the spouses of other H-1B workers and H-2 workers, who cannot. The new data can be seen, among other places, in the new CIS Data Portal.
Let's get back to the 93.3 percent figure. That assumes, looking in the mirror, that employers pick men 14 times as often as they select women to be their employees. That cannot reflect anything but a severe gender bias.
The employers (many of which are India-based outsourcing companies) also indirectly show their strong reference for not only males, but Indian males, as 90.1 percent of the EAD-holding spouses, in the period from February 2015 through the end of December 2017, were from India.
The distribution of the H-4s by country of birth shows the lopsided manner in which H-1B employers (who argue that they only seek the best and the brightest) find the overwhelming percentage of the world's best and brightest to be from India (more specifically from South India, as we reported earlier).
Here are the birth-countries of the spouses getting the EADs in FY 2017:
- India: 24,779
- China: 1,832
- Philippines: 204
- Mexico: 31
- Canada: 21
- Nepal: 20
- Mexico: 17
- Pakistan: 13
- UK: 13
- Others: 345
- Total: 27,275
Some of these spouses presumably married H-1Bs from other nations, thus inflating the numbers from some of these countries (Nepal borders both India and China, for example), but I doubt that is a significant factor.
The valid period of the EADs is equal to that of the underlying visa, so renewals are not part of the picture. With than in mind, it is worth noting that there is an annual addition of about 27,000 new H-4s with EADs each year, as the backlogs in the EB-2 and EB-3 (permanent immigration) categories continue to grow. By now (late March 2018) there are close to 100,000 EAD-carrying H-1 B spouses in America's labor market. Here are the annual totals of approvals (bearing in mind that 2015 and 2018 are partial years):
- 2015 (part year): 25,854
- 2016 (full year): 31,017
- 2017 (full year): 27,275
- 2018 (part year): 6,800
- Total: 90,946
It would be helpful, in the future, if USCIS also provided denial data, which it has at its collective fingertips. This should be done for all visa categories, all the time.
The H-4s with EADs are not tied to any employer — as their spouses are – and can work anywhere in the United States. The big employers of H-1Bs love the program because it gives some of their employees more family income, without it costing the employers a penny. The losers, of course, are the U.S. residents who don't get jobs that they might otherwise secure.
As usual in the immigration policy business, the employers (and the government of India) are acutely aware of the utility of the program, while those losing jobs because of it generally do not know even of its existence, much less its impact on their lives. So guess whose voices are heard by our decision-makers?