"Each H1B Visa...

produces 1.83 new American jobs."

I saw an article asserting the above. There is a huge problem here: what is it?

UPDATE: Most people are philodoxers; their immediate reaction to a study is not to ask whether it is true or not, but to see if the approve of its findings.

But if this is the way you are looking at the above sentence, it is going to completely blind you to the terrible problem sticking out like a randy, drunk man in a convent choir. Because that problem has nothing to do with whether H1B Visas are good for the country or not.

I will post the answer a little later today.


12 comments:

  1. I doubt its true - but I see no reason why it couldn't be true in theory. Suppose for example that the visas were for people who generated $200k of foreign income that otherwise wouldn't be earned. Some of this income is then spent (by the visa-holder or those employing them) on domestic goods - and this leads to 1.83 additional Americans being employed.

    Am I missing something ?

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    1. Yes. There is a really terrible problem which we don't need a speck of empirical evidence to see.

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  2. Uh . . . one of the 1.83 is a new bureaucrat position?

    Other than that, my only answer is that the visa doesn't create jobs - people do.

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    1. No, more obvious, once you are trained to evaluate studies.

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  3. Is the problem that producing jobs should not be a goal? Producing wealth, the ability to have meaningful leisure, and happiness should be?

    Tim McVeigh surely produced at least 1.83 jobs, and the War on Drugs surely created millions of jobs.

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  4. I would question whether it was remotely possible to estimate an answer like that out to 3 sig figs. But that's probably just because I am a chemist.

    Also, we don't know the methodology, but from the way it's worded, I would suspect they are not talking net, so they are not counting the job taken by the visa-holder. Net it would be maybe 0.8 jobs.

    (And of course, that is not including the effect on MVP of labor, the nature of this newly created job, and stuff like that, but I don't think that's what you're looking for...)

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    1. "I would question whether it was remotely possible to estimate an answer like that out to 3 sig figs."

      There you go! The stated precision is completely absurd. If a study like this could actually show "Each H1B Visa holder creates between 1 and 3 new American jobs," that would be a worthy accomplishment.

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    2. I think research has shown that 89.23% of quoted statistics use spurious levels of accuracy.

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  5. Not sure if this is what you mean, but the last decimal place is suspicious. It is hard to see how anyone could *conclusively* demonstrate a relationship between jobs and visas when it's impossible to re-run the experiment. To quantify it to the third decimal place is laughable.

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    1. Right: I don't even believe the second decimal place. Just being able to decide the *direction* of the effect would be an accomplishment.

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  6. Is it that a single visa can't create .83 of a job?

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