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H1B Salaries in the US


Today I was playing around with the excellent Tableau Desktop and figured I’d take a look at the H1B datasets that are published to see if I could find anything interesting.

The first thing I looked up is what are the cities that spent the most on H1Bs. While the top city isn’t quite surprising, the gap between it and number 2 took me a little off guard.

Spend by city on H1Bs

As can easily be seen by the above chart, New York is by far and away the number 1 spender on H1Bs, spending over 4 times as much as second place Houston. And talking about Houston, while I wasn’t surprised to see Redmond high on the list at number 4, I wondered what Houston was spending so much on.

Houston spend on H1Bs

Turns out they’re spending most of their money on software people, albeit with a good chunk of it on accountants. And while they’re certainly spending a lot in aggregate, being an H1B programmer in Houston doesn’t seem to be all that lucrative:

Houston average H1B spend

If we take a look at the average over the whole country on the other hand the spots to be hired as an H1B point themselves out quite easily.

Average US spend on H1Bs by city

It becomes painfully clear that software hubs are where H1Bs make the most on average. All those nicely paid Google, Apple and Microsoft jobs obviously. But wait, all the averages are under 90k? Some entry-level dev positions get better offers than that in major software centers. Let’s see what happens when we drill into the data a little. Let’s take a look at Redmond.

Microsoft spend on H1Bs

In my initial version of this post looking only at prevailing_wage (which is the industry benchmark, not what Microsoft and others are actually paying) I said that perhaps there was some justification to feeling that H1B was used as a tool to depress wages. However, as is now shown above, Microsoft is definitely paying more than 95k to senior software engineers. I found the numbers I was using earlier fishy and this now makes a lot more sense given that new grads can get offers approaching 90k sometimes.

But enough of that. Let’s move on.

I’m in software myself so I figured I’d filter out industries I didn’t care about and see if we could find anything else that was interesting. I filtered on *developer*, *software*, *computer*, *database*, *dba*, *web*, *programmer*, *systems* and architect (not all but selected titles from the list). This is what I got:

US H1B software spend

While New York is still number 1, their lead was cut down drastically. Redmond is now second and… Edison? Where is Edison? Turns out it’s Edison, New Jersey. This tiny little place:

Edison, New Jersey

(click on the image to head to google maps and check it out)

Now why would Edison, NJ spend almost as much on H1Bs as Google and Apple (Mountain View & Cupertino) combined? I decided to take a quick look and see which companies were the ones hiring so many software H1Bs.

Edison, New Jersey spend on software H1Bs

Yeah… ok. I’ve never really heard of any of these guys other than Fujitsu and Oracle way down at the bottom there. Wait a minute, Oracle Financial Services Software? Let’s take a closer look at those company names.. Hmm sounds like consulting firms mostly. Let’s Google them.

Diaspark has expertise in Enterprise Software, Mobile Applications, Jewelry Software and IT Consulting.

Welcome to EATeam Inc.
We are Enterprise IT Solutions company based in New Jersey, with a dedicated goal of providing quality Information Technology consulting and staffing

Kaizen Technologies provides consulting and IT services to clients globally – as partners to conceptualize and realize technology driven business transformation initiatives.
We provide solutions for a dynamic environment where business and technology strategies converge.

etc. etc. etc. You get the idea. Why at there so many enterprise software companies based in Edison? It’s almost certainly a tax thing. Turns out if you zoom out a little, Edison is less than an hour’s drive from Wall Street which I imagine makes it a convenient location to base your “headquarters” while in really all the work is actually done in NY.

Update: Turns out my guess about Edison was completely wrong. It turns out that, as JoeW in the comments here and others in this news.yc thread have pointed out, Edison, New Jersey is something of an India within the US. Given the conditions there (workers rarely socializing outside their immediate surroundings), it seems that wages can stay depressed to the minimum outset in H1B law because the employees don’t know that outside their little bubble others are earning more for comparable work. This place would be a fascinating place for a sociologist to go in and study I’m sure.

Directions from Edison, NJ to Wall Street, NY

And while the pay is better than in Houston:

Edison, NJ avg spend on software H1Bs

if you look at the standard deviation you don’t exactly have all that much negotiation power it seems:

Edison, NJ stddev on software H1B spend

Now that we’re on the topic of negotiation power, how much salary range do H1Bs actually span?

Software H1B stddev by city

Whoa! What’s going on there? Is there really such a huge variation in Chicago, New York, San Diego and Columbus? Turns out, not really. If we drill down into the raw H1B data for New York for example we see this:

H1B data for New York

So it’s really just a few extremes that are skewing the data. It’s also similar for the other cities with large stddevs. San Diego has someone being paid 6,050,000.00 but then it drops to 221,848.00 while Columbus has someone being paid 5,526,600 which then drops to 191,184. It would’ve been nice if Tableau had an option to only work with the middle 95 or 98% of data so as to throw out some of the abberations that are skewing the data a little but for now we’ll just exclude those locations altogether and take a look again.

Software H1B stddev by city

So as it turns out, in software hubs at least, there seems to be a fairly decent range that H1Bs can span, unlike places like Houston or Edison (Edison has a single 10.5 million wage which is skewing the results massively).

To conclude, if you were curious about which are the companies in the US that spend the most on software H1Bs well here it is:

Companies that hire software H1Bs

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft is first, but surprisingly I actually haven’t heard all that much about several of those companies. Patni America for example is actually much closer to Microsoft than it seems because they hold both the second and seventh position (there’s an extra comma in the second name) so really they should be up at 107,746,662 which is interesting because it’s incredibly close to their prevailing wage total of 107,310,618. It seems Patni pays pretty much exactly the industry average and no more. I tried to figure out what exactly they do from their website but they seem to be yet another generic business software consulting company, albeit one that hires a massive number of H1Bs. As for the rest, feel free to look them up on your own. =)

Written by Smokinn

September 28th, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

23 Responses to 'H1B Salaries in the US'

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  1. Amazing analysis…thanks for sharing.


    28 Sep 11 at 10:05 pm

  2. Do you have any explanation why there is no medicine related jobs?


    28 Sep 11 at 10:28 pm

  3. It’s because I filtered for software which is my industry and is what I was interested in.


    28 Sep 11 at 10:58 pm

  4. I submit that some of those outliers are simple data submission errors. Look at Herrick Feinstein lawyer. Their supposed pay is exactly 100x the prevailing wage. 9MM seems a tad much for an associate attorney anyhow.

    Main Street Restaurants, financial associate, exactly 100x 46k, which is $94 over the prevailing wage. Similarly, video editors don’t make 890k+, 89k is more like it.

    etc etc

    John SMythe

    28 Sep 11 at 11:18 pm

  5. Yeah, very probably.. I would have to go in an delete anything that seemed ridiculous manually.


    28 Sep 11 at 11:26 pm

  6. Your reasoning for Edison isn’t right. It’s not that companies decided to put IT outsourcing HQ’s there for tax reasons. It’s that for decades Edison has been a “Little India”, where new South Asian immigrants would first settle (and often stay) when first entering the US. Of course, when companies look to where to setup they see a highly educated population that isn’t willing to relocate, so they bring the company there. You’re idea that its taxes would mean that people would have setup in Jersey City which is connected to the NYC subway.


    28 Sep 11 at 11:35 pm

  7. Impressive use of Tableau.. was it a personal license or your company’s? ;) Good work overall!


    28 Sep 11 at 11:45 pm

  8. Thanks JoeW, I’ve updated the article.


    28 Sep 11 at 11:46 pm

  9. Sreenath, it was actually the 14 day trial. In a couple of weeks I won’t be able to do this kind of analysis quite so easily. :)

    A friend was actually the one who first told me about tableau recently and I’m quite impressed.


    28 Sep 11 at 11:50 pm

  10. Share the same sentiments there.. Impressive tool! And thank god for multiple email accounts – been living off the 14 day trial for months now.


    29 Sep 11 at 12:06 am

  11. The data is somewhat skewed by the size of the cities. New York is huge. Its competitor isn’t really #4 (San Jose) or #5 (San Francisco), but rather the san francisco bay area as a whole. You can live in any of these cities listed on your post and commute to silicon valley and still have a commute similar to what a New Yorker might have. If you take san francisco + san jose + santa clara + sunnyvale + mountain view + fremont + palo alto + cupertino together (all of these are very clearly bay area) you’re talking about $1.2B. That’s a bit over half the amount spent in NYC, which is less of a drastic drop from “#1 to #2″.


    29 Sep 11 at 12:12 am

  12. Sreenath, the fact that you are using multiple email accounts to not pay for the product seems unethical


    29 Sep 11 at 12:26 am

  13. You should use Tableau Public – and then you can embed interactive visuals instead of just screenshots. :) Also, it should be very easy to filter out the individuals outliers (just graph top individual salaries, select, filter) so your averages aren’t skewed.

    James Baker

    29 Sep 11 at 1:07 am

  14. [...] Зарплаты в США для имеющих визу типа H1B [...]

  15. You’ve proven what I’ve been saying for many years. Nows there’s imperical evidence to show, in my area Irvine, that wages were driven from 120k+ to almost less than 70k. No wonder I can’t get a job paying what I used to get. Thanks H1B!


    29 Sep 11 at 1:56 am

  16. Hi James, I did notice the Tableau Public stuff but haven’t set that up yet. I only just started using it today and haven’t had that much time to explore. I didn’t really expect this post to get this much attention honestly.

    Lots of people have been telling me what I should be doing next to do better (getting rid of the outliers, grouping by metro area/region rather than simply on city name, etc.) so I’ll probably do a more rigourous follow-up at some point and use some of the most advanced features of Tableau.


    29 Sep 11 at 2:12 am

  17. Sean, I’m not so sure my post proves anything really. Here’s a better look at some of the Irvine H1B data:

    As you can see, a lot of the positions are being compensated above the prevaling wage. The problem with the average is that some people put the hourly wage in the wage_rate box:

    Which brings the average down a lot. So I really wouldn’t read too much into this “analysis” of mine. It really wasn’t rigorous at all and had I know it would’ve become popular I would’ve put a lot more work into getting accurate results. My goal wasn’t really to study the H1B situation that much, it was just to try out Tableau since a friend told me I should check out that company.


    29 Sep 11 at 2:15 am

  18. Seems you repeated your 1st chart with your 6th one when you meant to post something else: http://smokinn.com/images/H1B/H1B_software_totals.png

    How about fixing that?

    Otherwise: nice analysis.

    Your extreme-value skew is another reason to look at not just mean but median. Skew and kurtosis are more advance measures of skew, but simply noting the delta between mean and median would be more transparent to most folks.


    29 Sep 11 at 3:14 am

  19. dredmorbius, the filter was off for that chart, thanks for the heads up.


    29 Sep 11 at 3:24 am

  20. Well, I am not a master of statistics but if you are not happy with the fact that extreme values are included in your research and give you oddly high mean values in some cases, maybe you should use median instead of mean? Mean value seems logical and natural for people but then you do wage analysis and no matter how much you earn you always find yourself below average (mean). That is because of few bosses who earns 1000 times more then 99% of their staff. Just use median or edit your dataset manually in spreadsheet to cut out the tails.


    29 Sep 11 at 4:00 am

  21. Patni is an Indian company – mostly outsourcing jobs. Satyam is also an Indian company. Cognizant does outsourcing work… if you get the drift…

    … which is, kind of, obvious.

    Anonymous bin Ich

    29 Sep 11 at 6:29 am

  22. @Sreenath regarding the 14 day trial and multiple emails accounts, that what disposable email addresses are for! check out 20minutemail and yopmail :)

    @Smokinn, real interesting analysis and good work, i enjoyed reading that.


    29 Sep 11 at 7:46 am

  23. Curious…what do the graphs look like when normalised against the cost of living for each city? For example, I’ve been told the cost of living in Houston is 6-12% higher than in Columbus, and I know New York is expensive as all get out. Or has that been accounted for?


    29 Sep 11 at 8:57 am

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