Immigrants Are Getting More Education
A Brookings report shows that for the first time, the share of working-age immigrants in the U.S. who have college degrees (29.6%) exceeds the share without a high school education (27.8%). In 1980, there were more than twice as many low-skilled immigrants living in the U.S. as high-skilled ones.
The report focuses on demographic trends in the 100 biggest metropolitan areas of the country over the past 15 years. While the Southwest and Great Plains remain destinations for low-skilled immigrant labor, much of the Northeast and Rust Belt now attract more immigrants with college degrees than those without. Some highlights:
- Forty-four of the 100 largest metropolitan areas are high-skilled immigrant destinations, where college-educated immigrants outnumber immigrants without high school diplomas by at least 25 percent. Most notable is the concentration of high-skilled immigrants in older industrial metro areas in the Midwest and Northeast such as Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Syracuse. Detroit, for instance, has 144 high-skilled immigrants for every 100 low-skilled immigrants.
- Immigrants’ skill levels vary by metro area due mostly to historical settlement patterns and economic structures. Recent immigrants to metro areas with the fastest-growing immigrant populations have markedly lower educational attainment than immigrants settling elsewhere. In former immigration destinations, or “gateways,” with low levels of contemporary immigration such as Detroit, and re-emerging gateways such as Philadelphia, immigrants have high levels of educational attainment. Whereas in more recent gateways such as Houston and interior California, low-skilled immigrants predominate.
- Compared with their U.S.-born counterparts, low-skilled immigrants have higher rates of employment and lower rates of household poverty, but also have lower individual earnings, across all metro areas. Nearly half of immigrants with a bachelor’s degree appear to be over-qualified for their jobs.