Inter-firm mobility and return migration patterns of skilled guest workers
Two concerns central to the debate over skilled guest worker programs in the USA are that (1) guest workers are restricted from inter-firm mobility and are “effectively tied” to their firms, and (2) guest workers provide cheap and immobile labor that crowds out natives, especially during times of heightened unemployment. We address these concerns by using a unique dataset of employee records from six large Indian IT firms operating in the USA. We find that the guest workers in our sample exhibit a significant amount of inter-firm mobility that varies over both the earnings distribution and the business cycle. We also find that these workers exit the USA during periods of heightened unemployment. These findings provide new evidence on the implications of the institutional features and debate surrounding guest worker programs.