Immigrants in America: More Skilled and Educated Than Ever Before

June 9, 2011

Washington D.C. - Today, the Brookings Institution released a new report, The Geography of Immigrant Skills: Educational Profiles of Metropolitan Areas, which finds that more working-age immigrants hold college degrees than lack high-school diplomas. This newly-released data has broad implications for an immigration debate that is driven largely by myths and stereotypes of less-skilled, unauthorized immigrants while devoting scant attention to the high-skilled end of the labor spectrum. To effectively reform the U.S. immigration system to the benefit of the U.S. economy and workers, both high-skilled and less-skilled immigrants must be part of the discussion and the debate must be guided by more facts and less political rhetoric.

As the report points out “immigrants are now one-in-seven U.S. residents and almost one-in-six workers. They are a significant presence in various sectors of the economy such as construction and hospitality on the low-skill end, and information technology and health care on the high-skill end. While border enforcement and illegal immigration are a focal point, longer-term U.S. global competitiveness rests on the ability of immigrants and their children to thrive economically and to contribute to the nation’s productivity.”

President Obama has caught on to this reality and begun challenging Americans to think about immigration as an engine for innovation and growth. The White House blueprint for “Building a 21st Century Immigration System” notes that “Immigrants started 25 percent of the highest-growth companies between 1990-2005, and these companies directly employ an estimated 220,000 people inside the U.S.” Moreover, “immigrant business owners generate $67 billion of the $577 billion in U.S. business income.” And “in the 1990s alone, skilled immigrants helped boost GDP by between 1.4 and 2.4 percent.”

The Brookings report is an important analysis of the immigrant workforce in America. It shows that America continues to attract the best and the brightest from around the world. However, we can and must do more to continue this trend for the sake of our economy.

To view the report from the Brookings Institution and other IPC resources see:


For more information contact Wendy Sefsaf at [email protected] or 202-507-7524

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