New Brain Gain: Rising Human Capital among Recent Immigrants to the United States

Jeanne Batalova and Michael Fix
Date of Publication: 
May, 2017
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

This fact sheet reports that recent immigrants in the United States are more educated than in the past. Data from the American Community Survey and U.S. Census Bureau show that from 1986 to 1990, 27 percent of new arrivals had a college degree. Between 2011 and 2015, 48 percent of recent immigrants were college graduates. In 26 states, recent immigrants were more likely to be college educated than those born in the U.S. The authors suggest this shift, along with an increase in English proficiency and bilingualism among new arrivals, may be due to increased immigration from Asia. Currently, half of the college-educated immigrants in the U.S. come from Asia. Educational attainment is rising among other immigrant groups as well; nearly one-quarter of recent immigrants from Latin America have college degrees. The authors also note the increased educational attainment and English education around the world and the rise of English as a global lingua franca. In 2015, the largest share of highly skilled immigrants came from India, followed by China/Hong Kong, the Philippines, Mexico and South Korea. The findings suggest some important policy measures, including addressing skill underutilization among college-educated immigrants (the so-called "brain waste" problem), avoiding immigration policies and rhetoric that deter highly skilled newcomers, and making temporary visas available for certain skilled immigrants. (American Immigrant Policy Portal)

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Batalova, J., & Fix, M. (2017). New Brain Gain: Rising Human Capital among Recent Immigrants to the United States (Fact Sheet) (p. 17). Washington, D.C.: Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from