The Skills and Economic Outcomes of Immigrant and U.S.-Born College Graduates
College-educated immigrants in the United States are more likely to have advanced degrees and to major in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields than their U.S.-born peers with college degrees. But their educational levels have not always translated into occupational gains: They are more likely than U.S.-born workers to be overeducated for their positions.
Even as the U.S. labor market faces persistent shortages, about 2 million college-educated immigrants in the United States worked in jobs that require no more than a high school degree or were unemployed as of 2019. This outcome is the result of lower levels of English proficiency, licensing barriers, limited social and professional networks, and other issues. Immigrants' literacy, numeracy, and digital skills may also play a role.
Drawing on an innovative international survey that tests skills needed for full participation in today’s increasingly knowledge-based world, this fact sheet finds a 22 percentage point gap in literacy and 11 percentage point gap in numeracy between immigrant college graduates and their U.S.-born peers.
By pooling the results of the three most recent Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) tests, which were carried out internationally in 2012, 2014 and 2017, MPI researchers sketch educational characteristics, labor force participation, monthly earnings, skill underutilization, and self-assessed job quality for immigrant and U.S.-born college graduates alike.
2 Demographic and Educational Characteristics
3 Economic Outcomes and Job Quality
4 College Graduates' Skills and Labor Market Outcomes