New Data and Facts on H-1B Workers across Firms

Anna Maria Mayda, Francesc Ortega, Giovanni Peri, Kevin Shih, Chad Sparber

Chapter in NBER book The Roles of Immigrants and Foreign Students in US Science, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship (2020), Ina Ganguli, Shulamit Kahn, Megan MacGarvie, editors (p. 99 - 121)
Conference held April 27, 2018
Published in February 2020 by University of Chicago Press
© 2020 by the National Bureau of Economic Research

This paper uses administrative USCIS data on the universe of approved I-129 petitions to summarize trends in H-1B employment during the period 1997-2012. First, we show that the total annual petition counts in our micro data closely match USCIS-published records of aggregate issuances overall, by occupation, and by country of origin. Next, we use string-matching techniques to build a longitudinal company-level dataset for approved petitions, distinguishing between petitions for initial and continuing employment. This dataset contains roughly 400,000 company names. These data clearly show a very large increase in the concentration of H-1B workers, with a 150% increase in the share of new initial-employment H-1Bs awarded to the top-20 petitioning firms between 2008 and 2012, with an increasing role played by global IT consulting companies. Last, we match our dataset on approved H-1B petitions to Compustat data on all publicly traded companies. The data show that roughly 42% of Compustat companies had at least one approved petition over our sample period. We also find that firms using the H-1B program are larger on average and have higher growth rates than non-users. In addition, we show that the explosion in the number of H-1Bs employed by the business services sector after 2008 is largely driven by an increase in the intensity of use of H-1B workers (relative to overall employment in the industry), as opposed to an increase in the size of the industry.

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