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Recent Mexican Immigration to Texas and the United States Is Becoming More Highly Skilled, New Research Finds

Press Release
Thursday, May 9, 2019

Recent Mexican Immigration to Texas and the United States Is Becoming More Highly Skilled, New Research Finds

WASHINGTON – The number of Mexican immigrants in the United States with at least a bachelor’s degree has more than doubled since 2000, with highly skilled Mexicans now the fourth largest group of college-educated immigrants in the country, after those from India, China and the Philippines.

This increase, primarily explained by the higher educational attainment seen with recent arrivals, is discussed in a new fact sheet from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and Southern Methodist University’s Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center, A Profile of Highly Skilled Mexican Immigrants in Texas and the United States.

The fact sheet offers a socio-demographic profile of college-educated Mexican immigrants and examines their destinations, legal status and top industries of employment in the state that is home to more than one-fourth of all highly skilled Mexican immigrants nationwide. It also includes select U.S. data.

The number of Mexican immigrants in the United States with a bachelor’s degree or higher rose from 269,000 in 2000 to 678,000 in 2017. In Texas, a gateway state for Mexicans, the number increased from 61,000 to 185,000 over the same period. Only California, with 215,000 highly skilled Mexican immigrants, has a larger number.

While the perception of immigration from Mexico and public debate have focused on low-skilled immigrants, almost 1 in 5 Mexicans arriving in Texas between 2013-2017, and 1 in 6 in the United States overall, had a college degree, as compared to slightly more than 1 in 20 during the 1996-2000 period. Still, highly skilled Mexicans comprise just a fraction of the overall Mexican foreign-born population, at 7 percent in Texas and 8 percent nationally, unsurprising considering the decline in overall Mexican migration to the United States and size of the earlier-arriving cohort.

Among the fact sheet’s other findings:

  • Two-thirds of highly skilled Mexican immigrants are either naturalized U.S. citizens or green-card holders, both in Texas and nationally.
  • Among Texas metro areas, Dallas and Houston have the largest numbers of highly skilled Mexican immigrants, but El Paso, McAllen and San Antonio have the largest percentage of those with college degrees in their Mexican-born population, potentially indicating movement of Mexican professionals to cities on or near the southwest border.
  • These five metro areas account for nearly three-quarters of all highly skilled Mexicans in Texas, with the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land area having 39,000 of the state’s 185,000 college degree-holders from Mexico. Following were Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, with 33,000; El Paso, 24,000; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, 21,000; and San Antonio-New Braunfels, 18,000. 

“As more Mexican immigrants settle in Texas, especially in its metro areas, and around the United States, local economies and communities stand to gain from this increasingly well-educated workforce,” said MPI President Andrew Selee, who co-authored the fact sheet with Associate Policy Analyst Ariel G. Ruiz Soto. “Knowing the profile of highly skilled Mexican immigrants can inform policy decisions and service provision to reduce under-employment and make the most of their potential contributions.”

Read the fact sheet here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/highly-skilled-mexican-immigrants-texas-united-states.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels.