Approaching a serious problem — the wage-depressing impact of the H-1B program — in a slightly frivolous way, we decided to use a new website to show how the lowest Ivy League H-1B salary offers compare to the earnings of a rookie cop in New York City. We found that a worker would make more money as a first-year cop in the city than in the lowest paid of the H-1B jobs in six of the eight Ivy schools, all professional positions.
You might say that this is an apples and oranges situation because the cops have a union and the H-1B program has no effect on their wages. That is exactly my point: When there is an H-1B program and no effective unions, wages stay low.
Chintzy H-1B Wages Offered by the Ivy League vs. NYPD Rookie Cop Salary
(Lowest — not average — H-1B offers in DoL records, 2016)
|Annual Salary Offered
|New York City Police Department
|Rookie Officer (not H-1B)
|Research Associate B
|Research Specialist A
|The Proposed Minimum Wage of $15/hour for 2000 hours of work
|Fast Food Worker, for example
Sources: University salaries from the lowest offers made by these universities on a U.S. Department of Labor H-1B database for 2016, as seen on the H-1BFacts website; rookie cop salary data from Chron.
Both the New York City Police Department and the Ivy League schools are non-profit, public service enterprises.
It must be stressed that these are the lowest offers made by these universities, not averages. By definition, all the rest of the salaries offered by these universities to H-1B workers, and there are hundreds a year in the Ivy League, are above the levels shown. At the other extreme, Harvard's labor conditions applications for 2016, for example, include six jobs paid at or above $250,000 a year. It is hard to believe that an employer could not find an appropriate U.S. worker at those salaries.
My point here, and in a subsequent blog on the low levels offered at the bottom by the big IT firms, is that these lousy salaries have not been reported in the press, and that they show how the presence of the program has seriously distorted salaries for professional workers at the journeyman level.
A couple of notes on the table: The NYPD salary for rookies is the base wage, and does not include uniform allowances and some other benefits, which would bring the figure to $44,744. New cops in New York are required to have either two years of college or two years of military experience, but it takes at least eight years of higher education to secure a doctorate for a post-doc job or to become a veterinarian.
If a reader were to check out the lowest of the University of Pennsylvania offers, you would find a single listing for West Chester University of Pennsylvania, a totally different institution. It sought to hire an assistant professor of economics and finance at $13.17 an hour, and the U.S. Department of Labor approved it! How good could the instruction be in economics and finance coming from some poor slob being paid fast-food wages?
That job, even with 2,000 hours paid, produces a gross income of $26,340 a year; clearly H-1B academic salaries outside the Ivy League can be even lower than those in the Ivy League.
My sense is that the economics of these universities, each with a significant endowment, and the economics in which these miserable H-1B salaries are offered are a bit distant from one another, although they should not be. Presumably the postdocs, veterinarian interns, and other researchers are working on grant-funded research and the principal investigators are putting together budgets that seem to meet the project's needs, which will often produce low salaries. The universities should pay more attention to how much the research helpers are paid, but they do not.
It would be a matter of pocket change for these universities to rule that they will never go below, say, $50,000 a year, when hiring an H-1B worker, but they have not done so.
The H-1BFacts website, created by Florida resident Robert Heath, provides users with a tool that I have not seen before. You can adjust the salary table so that you can see the range of the salaries offered from top to bottom, and from bottom to top. The reader also can see how many jobs are sought at each salary level. All of those I saw in the university listings were for single jobs, those in industry filings can be in multiples, such as 150 identical requests for workers with the same job title and the same salary.
In a forthcoming blog we will examine how the bottom level salaries of the big IT companies compare to the more widely published averages, and how both compare to the data on the Ivy League.