Cornell: New Report! on SKILLED IMMIGRANTS' 'BRAIN WASTE' in the U.S.

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Oct 27 21:16:49 UTC 2008

[22 October 2008]
IWS Documented News Service
Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach
School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for
Workplace Studies
Cornell University
16 East 34th Street, 4th floor---------------------- Stuart Basefsky
New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau

Migration Policy Institute (MPI)

Uneven Progress: The Employment Pathways of Skilled Immigrants in the
United States [22 October 2008]
[full-text, 70 pages]

Press Release 22 October 2008
New Report on 'Brain Waste': 1 in 5 College-Educated Immigrants in
U.S. Labor Market Stuck in Unskilled Jobs or Unemployed

WASHINGTON ­ More than 1.3 million college-educated immigrants living
in the United States are unemployed or working as taxi drivers,
dishwashers, security guards or in other unskilled jobs because they
are unable to make full use of their academic and professional
credentials, according to a new report issued today by the Migration
Policy Institute.

The report, <>
Uneven Progress: The Employment Pathways of Skilled Immigrants in the
United States¸ for the first time quantifies the scope of the 'brain
waste' problem that affects 22 percent of the 6.1 million immigrants
with a bachelor's degree or higher who are in the U.S. labor market.
The report analyzes and offers possible solutions for the
credentialing and language-barrier hurdles that deprive the U.S.
economy of a rich source of human capital at a time of increasing
competition globally for skilled talent.

"While policymakers in Europe, Canada and elsewhere are focusing
intently on attracting highly skilled immigrants, it is all the more
necessary for the United States to fully leverage the talents of
college-educated immigrants already living here ­ more than half of
whom came with academic degrees earned abroad," said Michael Fix,
MPI's senior vice president and co-author of the report. "It's vital
for the U.S. economy and its productivity in an ever-more globalized
world, as well as for the immigrants themselves."

Said report co-author Jeanne Batalova, an MPI policy analyst: "During
a period of rising unemployment and economic difficulties, it's
important to think ahead and make clear that allowing college-educated
immigrants already in the United States to achieve greater career
potential can increase U.S. productivity and competitiveness. Numerous
studies have shown that highly skilled immigrants contribute to the
economy through innovation and entrepreneurship, and pay more in taxes
than they take out in services. Maximizing the use of their human
capital can be an engine for job creation."

Among the report's findings:
   * Many highly skilled immigrants experience a sharp drop in
occupational status upon first coming to the United States. How
quickly they recover their status depends on a number of factors,
including English skills, region of origin, place of education and
length of time in this country.
   * Overall, college-educated immigrants from Africa and Latin
America have less success in finding skilled jobs in the United States
than do immigrants from Asia and Europe.
   * Highly skilled immigrants with U.S. college degrees or U.S. work
experience prior to permanent settlement fared far better than their
peers with foreign-obtained degrees or no U.S. work experience.
   * English language proficiency is critical to obtaining jobs
commensurate with immigrants' competencies.

The report offers a number of policy suggestions to improve the
professional outcomes for the highly skilled, including integrated
language and workforce training; and the creation of a standing
commission on labor markets that would recommend adjustments in visa
levels and put the immigration system in sync with the economy.

In addition to offering a national snapshot, the report's authors
examined skill underutilization on the state level by analyzing U.S.
Census data for California, Illinois, Maryland and New York.
The report is available online at:

Executive Summary 1
Key Findings 2
Policy Implications 2
Future Research Agenda 3
I. College-Educated Immigrants and Skill Waste: Introduction 5
The Issue 5
Goals and Organization of the Paper 7
II. Points of Departure 9
III. Skill Underutilization among Educated Immigrants:
Results from the American Community Survey 11
Immigrants in the Highly Skilled Workforce 12
Unemployment and Employment Patterns 13
Earnings 15
The Skill Levels of Jobs Held by Immigrants 15
Country Variations 18
Assessing the Impact of Language Proficiency 21
State-Level Findings on Skill Underutilization 21
IV. Occupational Trajectories of Highly Skilled Legal Permanent Residents:
Results from the New Immigrant Survey 25
"Quality of Job" Index 26
V. American Community Survey versus the New Immigrant Survey:
Telling Consistent Stories 31
VI. Conclusion 33
Integration Policies 33
Credentialing 33
Language and Workforce Training 35
Other Barriers 37
Universal Approach 38
Immigration Policy 39
Transitional Temporary-to-Permanent Visas 39
Immigration and Labor Markets 39
VII. Future Research Agenda 41
Appendix A. Occupational Titles by Required Skills, Education, and Training 43
Appendix B. Demographic and Social Characteristics of the Highly Skilled,
2005­2006 45
Appendix C. Demographic and Social Characteristics of Employed Highly Skilled
Workers in California, Illinois, Maryland, and New York, 2005­2006 47
Appendix D. State-Level Charts, 2005­2006 49
Appendix E. LPR Definitions 55
Appendix F.1. Selected Demographic and Socioeconomic Characteristics of
Foreign-Educated LPRs by Class of Admission, 2003 57
Appendix F.2. Selected Demographic and Socioeconomic Characteristics of
Foreign-Educated LPRs by Place of Birth, 2003 59
Works Cited 61
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