Read the full brief here.

Yesterday, the Niskanen Center filed an amicus brief in the WashTech v. DHS case. WashTech questions the legal basis of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program and alleges that the workers it represents are harmed by it. In our brief, we draw attention to our findings from the research paper we released earlier this year, casting doubt on the alleged harms to natives.

Using the geographic variation of OPT participants in the labor market and
exploiting a natural experiment afforded by the promulgation of the STEM extension, our study found that OPT workers do not compete with highly educated natives (like those WashTech is representing) and that increased competition is not visible in the job market, contrary to WashTech’s claims. Natives’ employment prospects and wages are unharmed, and the college- educated may even see increased earnings when working near greater numbers of OPT participants.

This is not surprising when we consider how OPT participants can compliment workers in high-skilled fields, which feature high degrees of specialization, work in teams, agglomeration effects, and the spillover effects from innovation.

Further, the paper shows that OPT increases innovation, benefitting natives as consumers. At the end of the day, we should be making it easier for talented and highly educated workers and innovators to continue pursuing their careers in the U.S. as an inexpensive part of any strategy to increase productivity growth.