Wednesday, May 21, 2014

U.S., State-Level Fact Sheets With Estimates of "Brain Waste" for College-Educated Immigrants

The foreign born who are college-educated, particularly those who earned their degrees abroad, face difficult challenges obtaining employment that fully utilizes their talents. These include difficulties gaining recognition of professional experiences and academic credentials earned from educational institutions abroad, acquiring professional-level English skills, navigating costly or time-consuming recertification processes, and building professional networks and U.S. job search skills.

The Migration Policy Institute's National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy first quantified the scope of this phenomenon of "brain waste" in the United States in 2008. In a new series of fact sheets issued today, we provide updated estimates of the number of college-educated immigrants, as well as native-born adults, ages 25 and older who are either unemployed or have jobs that are significantly below their education and skill levels. The fact sheets offer brain waste estimates for the United States overall as well as for the 12 states with the largest number of college-educated immigrants in the civilian labor force; they also examine underutilization of education among professionals with engineering, nursing, and teaching degrees at the undergraduate level.

Our analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data determined that 1.6 million, or 23 percent, of the nearly 7.2 million college-educated immigrants ages 25 and older in the civilian labor force are in low-skilled jobs or are unemployed. Brain waste particularly affects the foreign born who earned their bachelor's degrees abroad, with 26 percent in low-skilled jobs or unemployed. As a point of comparison, 20 percent of immigrants who obtained their bachelor’s degree abroad worked in low-skilled jobs versus 12 percent of college-educated native-born workers.

The state fact sheets detail some interesting variations by place of education, as well as how education underutilization in engineering, nursing, and teaching affect immigrant populations differently by state.

Policymakers and immigrant-service providers in a number of states are working in innovative ways to address these challenges. Representatives from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and Washington state's OneAmerica joined us during a recent webinar to discuss state-level initiatives they had undertaken to address brain waste among highly educated immigrants and refugees. You can listen to the podcast of that discussion here.

The national and state fact sheets are collected in one place.


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