Despite the narrative that uneducated, unskilled immigrants enter the United States to dominate job markets, the data tells a different story. Foreign-born individuals in the U.S are just as likely as native born Americans to be college educated with 1/3 of immigrants holding a bachelor’s degree or higher according to the Association of American Colleges & Universities. A Pew Research study also found immigrants don’t make up the majority of any one industry.
Of those immigrants that are college educated, 15% of them earned a doctorate or professional degree, outpacing native-born Americans. At the same time, 29% of immigrants over the age of 25 attained less than a high school level of education according to Pew Research. While immigrants living in the United States today are split nearly equally between educated and uneducated, the most recent immigrants come with college degrees and prior experience.
“The result is that America has switched from importing people who are, on average less educated than the natives to people who are better schooled,” The Economist wrote, citing 26 states where immigrants that arrived between 2010 and 2015 were more educated than native Americans. Almost half, 48%, of adult immigrants between 2010 and 2015 held college degrees according to a MPI press release.
From 2000 to 2015, the number of college educated Latin American immigrants doubled according to the MPI. These 2.4 million workers surpassed European immigrants to represent the second largest college educated immigrant group after Asia.
Still, a college degree won’t guarantee a well paying job for these individuals. MPI research showed 1 in 4 U.S. college-educated immigrants either worked low-skilled jobs or were unemployed. Systemic changes in occupational licensing regulations, reducing bias against foreign degrees and work experience and bridging the language gap are needed to match these immigrants with suitable jobs and generate nearly $40 billion annually according to the MPI.