The educational level of immigrants in America

A new report suggests that there are more immigrants with college degrees than immigrants without high school diplomas:

“There’s more high-skilled (immigrants) than people believe,” said Audrey Singer, senior fellow with the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution and co-author of the report, which contends that the economic contribution of immigrants has been overshadowed by the rancorous debate over illegal immigration.

Singer and Matthew Hall, a sociologist at the University of Illinois-Chicago, analyzed census data for the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas and found that 30 percent of working-age immigrants had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 28 percent who lack a high school diploma.

The article suggests that the report is intended to influence the national immigration debate, presumably by suggesting that many immigrants are an asset to the country.

But it would be helpful here to compare these figures for immigrants to the statistics for American adults overall to know whether these figures are impressive or not. Here are the 2010 educational attainment figures for Americans 18 and older of all races: 27.28% have a bachelor’s degree or higher while 13.71% have less than a high school degree. It looks like the figures for immigrants are more polarized compared to the general population with a higher percentage, about 2-3% more, having a college degree while a much higher percentage, about double, having less than a high school diploma. (Figures for Americans 25 and older change a little: 29.93% have a college degree or greater while 12.86% have less than a high school degree.)

The value, then, in the figures about immigrants are probably in the field of public perceptions, particularly the statistic of immigrants with a college degree which matches up well with comparisons to Americans 18+ and 25+ years old.

(The article doesn’t address this and I don’t know if the report does either: does it matter that the figures for immigrants are drawn from the 100 largest metropolitan areas? Would the figures be different if looking at all immigrants?)

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