Last Friday, Professor Giovanni Peri, Professor of Economics at UC Davis, invited Bright Chief Data Scientist David Hardtke and me to present Bright’s H1-B report at Immigration Reform: What Next?, an immigration policy conference organized by the Immigration Law Association of UC Davis School of Law. Our presentation of our findings — that for certain jobs in certain locations there is a need for skilled foreign labor but for others, the H1-B program is being abused — fit well with the theme of the conference, which was the need for some kind of change in our immigration policy. Alongside the H1-B issue, though, the main topic of discussion was the agricultural industry, and how an improving Mexican economy and other forces require a change in American thinking about labor in a huge sector of the economy. (California's Central Valley generates $43 billion in revenue a year from fruits, vegetables and nuts.)
In response to the threat of potential agricultural labor shortages, Bright ran its own analysis and found an estimated 14,000 good-fit candidates nationwide for a general laborer position in the agricultural industry, which is well below the estimated 3 million seasonal farmworkers in the United States and assumes that U.S. workers would be willing to even take agricultural jobs. What this may mean for the agricultural industry is unclear, but change is coming. To learn what forms it might take and see my full report from the conference complete with links to speaker's publications, check out my post on the Bright blog.