USA: The Skill Level of Immigrants Is Rising | Cato at Liberty Blog

Of note, despite a relative lack of programs to encourage skilled immigration. Same trend in Canada but more of conscious policy and program choices:

A major immigration debate over the last several years is whether the U.S. immigration policy should be more meritocratic by attracting higher educated workers. President Trump supported such a system if it were pared with many fewer legal immigrants coming in while Democrats are mostly supportive of increasing all types of immigration. Although Congress did not pass a law to create a more meritocratic immigration system, new immigrants to the United States are increasingly skilled. In other words, the U.S. immigration system is becoming more meritocratic on its own.

The United States is an increasingly attractive place for highly educated immigrants. From all regions except for Africa, the share of immigrants arriving with a college degree has risen since 1995 while the share arriving with a high school degree or lower has dropped. Figure 1 shows the change in the proportion of recently arrived immigrants, 5 years in the United States or fewer, in different education groups between 1995 and 2020. Persons under 30 are excluded, as they are more likely to have not completed their education.

Some of these changes are striking. The proportion of recent immigrants from Central America with graduate degrees increased by more than 350 percent in 35 years, from 2 percent of recent immigrants in 1995 to 9.5 percent of recent immigrants in 2020. The share of new immigrants who are high school dropouts has declined or every region or origin from 1995 to 2020.

The same trend is true when comparing individual countries. Figure 2 shows the change in educational attainment from four of the top sending countries in 1995 and 2020. Mexican immigrants, who are often criticized as being low‐​educated and low‐​skilled, are now 2.4 times more likely to have received a bachelor’s degree at arrival than they were just 35 years ago.

Figure 3 shows that immigrants have higher high school dropout rates than natives, but immigrants who come here at a younger age (younger than 10) typically end up getting more education eventually.

Native‐​born Americans are not the only ones who benefit from more highly educated immigrants. The children of immigrants consistently earn more education than their parents, and since 2010, more than native‐​born Americans (Figure 4). Again, persons under 30 are excluded from analysis to avoid over‐​counting individuals with less than a high school education.

Congress did not create a merit‐​based immigration system as President Trump wanted, but we seem to be getting one nonetheless as immigrants become more skilled over time.

Source: The Skill Level of Immigrants Is Rising | Cato at Liberty Blog

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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