Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Profile of Immigrant Workers in the United States

Immigrants' participation in the workforce is one of the most important markers of successful integration. But the economic success of immigrant workers in the United States varies greatly, depending on skill level or the state they reside. This month, Migration Policy Institute offers an updated "Workforce Characteristics" fact sheet, which allows you to learn more about immigrants' presence in the US labor force: their regions of origin, top occupations and industries, and the extent to which "brain waste" occurs among college-educated immigrants. The data are based on the US Census Bureau's 2011 American Community Survey (ACS).

Here are a few select stats from the fact sheet that you may find interesting:

• One in six US workers are born abroad: The 23.3 million immigrants in the US civilian labor force account for 17 percent of workers ages 16 and older, while at the same time, immigrants account for 13 percent of US residents. Both the number and the share that immigrants represent among all US civilian employed workers roughly doubled between 1990 and 2011.

• Traditional gateway states have high shares of immigrants in the labor force: The three states with the highest share of immigrants in the overall workforce are California (35 percent), New Jersey (28 percent), and New York (close to 28 percent). On the other end of the spectrum, West Virginia has the lowest share of immigrants in its labor force (less than 2 percent).

• Immigrants are overrepresented among less-educated workers: Immigrants account for 51 percent of workers without a high school degree and 16 percent of college-educated workers ages 25 and older. For instance, California ranked No. 1 for both the highest share of immigrants among low-educated workers (80 percent) and the highest share of immigrants in the college-educated workforce (30 percent). At the other end, Montana has the lowest share of immigrants among its college-educated workers (3 percent) and West Virginia has the lowest share of immigrants among its low-educated workforce (3 percent).

• "Brain waste" affects more than 1.5 million college-educated immigrants: Some 22 percent of immigrants with a college degree were either unemployed or worked in unskilled jobs such as dishwashers, security guards, and housemaids.

KJ

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