Recent arrivals better educated

Recent arrivals better educated By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY – 02/22/05

Immigrants who came to the USA this decade are more educated than those who arrived in the late 1990s, Census Bureau data released today show.

  • The data also indicate that the adult children of immigrants are exceeding their parents’ income and educational levels. The increase in education levels “is good news because it shows that immigrants are getting a foothold,” says William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “The downside is we’re bringing in a lot of lower-skilled people, too.
  • Tracking the success of immigrants and their children is critical at a time when U.S. immigration is at a record high. More than 34 million people in the USA, or almost one in eight, were born in another country, according to the government’s survey of 62,500 households in March 2004. About 6 million arrived since 2000, 59% of them from Latin America and 23% from Asia. If the pace continues, immigration could hit more than 14 million this decade, up from the previous high of 12 million in the 1990s.
  • “A key question surrounding current immigration is: Is this wave of immigrants going to integrate like previous waves?” says Jeffrey Passel, demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, a research group in Washington. “You hear things like, ’My grandparents learned English, why can’t these people?’ These immigrants are learning English.”
  • Of the 3.4 million immigrants age 25 or older who arrived from 2000 to 2004, 30.7% were high school dropouts. That compares with 33.2% of the 3.5 million who came from 1995 to 2000, says Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California. And more recent arrivals are college-educated: 34.3% had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 32.5% in the late 1990s.
  • Of the foreign-born Hispanics age 25 and over who arrived since 2000, about 13% had bachelor’s degrees or more compared with 9% of those who came in the 1990s, according to Frey’s analysis. Almost 65% of Asian newcomers had college degrees, up from 49%. “Why are so many more immigrants now highly skilled?” Myers says. “Is it because the U.S. educational system is not putting out as many high-skilled workers? Do we have to import more workers?“
  • The government issued 195,000 visas a year to specialized, college-educated foreign workers sponsored by employers in 2001, 2002 and 2003, triple the norm.The Center for Immigration Studies says an economic downturn after 2000 did not slow immigration. The non-profit group backs reducing immigration levels.
  • The Census data for the first time include demographic and socioeconomic profiles of “second-generation” Americans, those who have at least one foreign-born parent. More of them have college degrees and higher incomes than their parents.
  • The adult children of Asian and Hispanic immigrants are “more likely to live in the suburbs, live in their own homes and be college grads,” Frey says. “They’re basically achieving the American dream.”