E.g., 09/12/2019
E.g., 09/12/2019

Tapping the Talents of Highly Skilled Immigrants in the United States: Takeaways from Experts Summit

August 2018

Tapping the Talents of Highly Skilled Immigrants in the United States: Takeaways from Experts Summit

Economists project a shortage of 5 million U.S. workers with postsecondary education and training by the end of this decade. In this context, the rising education level of recent U.S. immigrants may represent a positive development for the U.S. economy. Yet one-quarter of immigrant college graduates in the United States—nearly 2 million people—are either unemployed or work in jobs that require no more than a high school degree.

This skill underutilization, known as “brain waste,” is the result of a mix of factors, including nonrecognition of academic and professional credentials, licensing hurdles, lack of professional English proficiency, and difficulty navigating the U.S. employment process. Prior Migration Policy Institute (MPI) research has found that when college-educated immigrants work in low-skilled jobs, the resulting brain waste costs them and the U.S. economy almost $40 billion per year in forgone earnings and $10 billion in unrealized federal, state, and local taxes.

MPI convened an experts summit to discuss how to maximize the recognition and use of the human capital of highly skilled immigrants in the United States. This report summarizes the discussion, findings, and possible  next steps to improve the recognition and use of highly skilled immigrants' qualifications.

Table of Contents 

I.    Introduction

II.    Changing Demographic, Economic, and Political Contexts
A.    Immigration in the Context of Projected Labor and Skills Shortages
B.    Impact of Occupational Licensing and Credentialing Requirements on Immigrants
C.    Digital Technology’s Impact on Immigrant Professionals
D.    The Potential Impacts of Growing Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

III.    Brain Waste in the United States: What Do We Know?
A.    Skill Underutilization: Scale and Cost
B.    Factors Associated with Brain Waste
C.    Unique Challenges Facing Immigrant Professionals

IV.    Opportunities for Reform
A.    Incorporate Lessons from Strategies that Successfully Promoted Reform
B.    Leverage Ongoing “Mainstream” Initiatives on Credentialing and Licensing
C.    Encourage and Support State-Level Innovations
D.    Promote Community College and University Engagement

V.    Moving Forward: Field Building Agenda
A.    Research and Knowledge Agenda
B.    Building Partnerships
C.    Communications
D.    Task Force on Talent