New Immigrants Better Educated but Not Better Employed


A new study by the right-leaning Center for Immigration Studies found that the education levels for new immigrants has increased dramatically in the last decade, but employment and income have not kept pace by nearly as much.

The study found that the share of new immigrants with a college degree has increased from 34% to 49% between 2007 and 2017. That 16-point increase is far greater than the 4% increase for native-born Americans. The percentage of native-born Americans with a bachelor’s degree increased to only 35% from 31%.

The percentage of newly-arrived immigrants who have not completed high school also decreased dramatically, dropping from 34% in 2007 to about 16% in 2017. The same measure only dropped about two percentage points from 8% to 6% during the same time for native Americans.

The rise in education levels for newly-arrived immigrants has not corresponded to more employment or better-paying jobs however. The median household income for immigrants dropped from $19,125 to $18,402. (It also dropped for native-born Americans from $37,483 to $36,606.)

What is has translated to is a steep rise in reliance on social services. The percentage of newly-arrived immigrants using Medicaid and receiving food stamp has increased from 7% to nearly 17%, and from 6% to nearly 13% respectively. The same metrics increased from nearly 6% to 13%, and from 4% to a little over 10% for native Americans.

While more research is needed, the study’s authors cite several possible reasons for the disparities. Firstly, they say the economy is likely not absorbing new workers as well as it once did. Secondly, they believe that newly-arrived immigrants are not as educated as they appear on paper. That is, they are not as skilled at each education level as in the past, relative to natives.

The study’s authors also believe that the percentage of newly-arrived immigrants who are women may also be a factor. They note that women on average tend to work and earn less than men. The percentage of newly-arrived immigrants who are women increased from 46% in 2007 to 53% in 2017.

President Trump has tried to push initiatives that would limit the number of legal immigrants that come to U.S., almost by half in the coming decades. So far, multiple attempts at comprehensive immigration reform have stalled in Congress.

Photo by Senior Airman Scott Jackson via U.S. Air Force