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Immigration

Why Are Recent Immigrants Better-Educated Than Ever Before?

In a previous blog post, I described two significant changes in the characteristics of newly arriving immigrants (legal and unauthorized) to the U.S. between 1997 and 2017. First, the share of recent immigrants aged 25 and older who had bachelor’s or advanced degrees rose from 30 percent to 48 percent. Second, the origins of new immigrants to the U.S. shifted dramatically, as immigration from Mexico and Europe declined in importance while immigration from Asia and Africa grew. In this post, I examine the relationship between these two changes.

Recent Immigrants Are Better-Educated Than Ever Before

From 1997 to 2007, a newly arrived adult immigrant to the United States was about as likely to have a college degree as to have not finished high school. During that period, each group accounted for about one third of new arrivals (including both legal and unauthorized immigrants). Over the decade since 2007, those odds changed dramatically. The share of recent immigrants with a college degree grew by nearly 50 percent, while the share without a high school degree fell by a similar proportion (see Figure 1). By 2017, a recently arrived immigrant was almost three times as likely to have a college degree as to have not finished high school.