The Geography of Immigrant Skills: Educational Profiles of Metropolitan Area

Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution
Date of Publication: 
June, 2011
Source Organization: 
Brookings Institution

This report observes that the U.S. has reached an important milestone: the percentage of working-age high-skilled immigrants (defined by the authors as those with a bachelor's degree or higher) now exceeds the percentage of low-skilled working-age immigrants (defined as those without a high school diploma). However, the distribution of high-skilled immigrants varies widely across the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas.  

The report groups these 100 areas into three categories: low-skill destinations, i.e. fewer than 75 high-skilled immigrants for every 100 low-skilled immigrants; balanced-skill destinations, i.e. ratios of 75 to 125, and high-skill destinations, i.e. more than 125 high-skilled immigrants for every 100 low-skilled immigrants. Most low-skilled destinations are located in the southwest border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and in the Plains States, where agricultural processing centers make heavy use of low-skill labor. High-skill destinations are found along the coasts, in large college towns and in older industrial areas, such as Cleveland, Pittsburg and St. Louis. Balanced-skill destinations, such as New York, Atlanta and Charlotte, predominate in Eastern and Southern states.  

The report notes that almost half of high-skilled immigrants, across all destinations, appear to be over-qualified for their jobs, suggesting a systemic waste of human capital that needs to be addressed by policy makers. The report concludes with a series of policy recommendations designed to maximize the contribution of immigrants to economic recovery and stabilization. (Summary by Nick Montalto.)

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Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution. (2011). The Geography  of Immigrant Skills: Educational Profiles of Metropolitan Area. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.