High-skill immigrants are more prevalent--and economically important--than ever before
Immigration remains a hotly debated issue across America and may prove a key sleeper issue in the looming 2012 presidential campaign, as my colleague Josh Green wrote yesterday. He notes that "whites are far more pessimistic about their prospects and their children's prospects--and many mistakenly believe that illegal immigrants are the primary culprit." He adds that "widespread misconceptions about the economic effects of immigration" stem "from a lack of information that's largely due to both the Democratic and Republican parties' unwillingness to pursue immigration reform, after years of failed attempts."
Nonetheless, a wide body of research shows the ways that immigration powers the twin engines of American innovation and entrepreneurship. Foreign-born founders and entrepreneurs stand behind anywhere from a third to a half of Silicon Valley high-tech startups, and comprise huge shares of computer scientists and software engineers.
A new Brookings Institution report provides important new data and evidence on the role of immigration and immigrants across US metros. Two conclusions stand out.
The share of high-skill immigrants has risen consistently over the past several decades, as the chart above shows; there are more high-skill immigrants in the United States now than low skill ones. As the report notes, "In 1980, just 19 percent of immigrants aged 25 to 64 held a bachelor's degree, and nearly 40 percent had not completed high school. By 2010, 30 percent of working-age immigrants had at least a college degree and 28 percent lacked a high school diploma."