New Data on Chinese and Indian H-1Bs' Educational Backgrounds

By David North on September 21, 2020

There are lots more Indians than Chinese (the second largest group) in the H-1B temporary worker program and the two provide different kinds of challenges to the United States. The latest data on new H-1B admissions shows that 72 percent of the new H-1Bs were from India and 13 percent of them were from China.

The Indians, because of their numbers, depress wages and working conditions in the IT industry, where they are a semi-indentured workforce. On the other hand, most of them speak relatively good English and have never been known to be a national security threat.

Meanwhile, some of the smaller number of Chinese H-1Bs (who do not have as good a command of the language as the Indians) provide headaches on the national security front, as my colleague Dan Cadman has reminded us recently, as well as playing a role in displacing American high-tech workers.

But there is another, and new to me, difference between the two groups — the Chinese are much more likely to be graduates of high-ranking educational institutions than are the Indians, and are much more likely to have degrees from U.S. schools. And the difference is not in shades of gray; it is quite remarkable, as the following statistics show:

The Top 10 Universities Educating the 2019 Group
of Potential Chinese H-1Bs

School US News and World Report
Global Ranking
2019 H-1B
Candidates from China
Carnegie Mellon 82 274
University of S. California 69 247
Columbia University 7 194
New York University 28 118
Cornell University 23 93
Northeastern University 200 80
University of Michigan 17 78
UCLA 14 75
Northwestern University 24 68
Texas A & M University 134 65

Source: US News and World Report; "Performance Data", U.S. Department of Labor.

We use the word "candidate" to identify the populations; they are people who were certified by the Department of Labor as eligible for the annual H-1B lottery, but were not necessarily hired. We presume that the lottery would not significantly alter the proportions from the various educational institutions. Note that there are nothing but U.S. schools in this listing for the Chinese would-be H-1Bs.

Next we look at where the 2019 cohort of potential H-1B workers from India had their last degree.

The Top 10 Universities Educating the 2019 Group
of Potential Indian H-1Bs

School US News and World Report
Global Ranking
2019 H-1B
Candidates from India
Jawaharlal Nehru
Technological University
1,072 1,317
Anna University 1,103 1,116
Osmania University 1,471 558
University of Madras 1,213 522
University of Mumbai No rating 403
Anna University of Chennai No rating 390
Andhra University No rating 375
University of Pune No rating 371
University of S. California 69 351
San Jose State University 1,294 303

Source: US News and World Report; "Performance Data", U.S. Department of Labor.

Let's assume, for the moment, that the US News and World Report rankings are tilted a bit in favor of American and Western European institutions, which might account for some of the low rankings in the Indian table above. But even so, if only the U.S. institutions are considered, the ranking of the schools most likely to be attended in the United States by the Chinese ran from seven to 200, while the comparable scale for the Indians was 69 to 1,294.

Mumbai (once Bombay) is the most northerly of the eight Indian universities; the other seven are in, or near, the southern part of the country with three of them being in what is now called Chennai and used to be Madras. (I do not have an answer as to why Anna University appears twice on the list.) The location of the universities is in keeping with our earlier observations that the H-1B program not only prefers to hire young Indian males, it prefers to do so in that nation's southern states.

It should be pointed out that the really high quality Indian high-tech institutions are not on the list above. One might expect to see an appearance of one or more of the Indian Institutes of Technology, rated 533, 654, and 654, respectively, on the US News and World Report rankings. But we do not.

Further, it should be remembered that it is easier, probably far easier, for an individual Indian to be sponsored for the H-1B drawings than it is for an individual Chinese. This is because there is nothing on the Chinese H-1B scene quite like the huge and powerful presence of the Indian outsourcing firms such as Infosys and Tata, firms that in the H-1B program hire virtually no one but Indians; further, Indians routinely experience at least part of their education in English, which is not true for those from Chinese universities. In addition, I keep being told that Indians have managed to secure a number of human resource jobs, decision-making positions, throughout many of the non-Indian-owned high tech companies. Perhaps one of the ways that the would-be Chinese H-1Bs compensate is to attend higher-ranked American universities.

All of this should be borne in mind in the continuing debate on the H-1B program, and the claims of the industry that the H-1Bs are the best and the brightest of the world. If so, why are so many of them graduates of lackluster institutions?