Educational status of new immigrants has been sharply rising.

The Pew Research Center reported on higher educational attainment of graduates. It noted a steady moderate increase from 1970 through 2007, then a sharp increase. Native-born Americans are better educated than in 1970, but especially in recent years new immigrants have outpaced native-born Americans in education.

Half of newly arrived immigrants in 1970 had at least a high school education; in 2013, more than three-quarters did. In 1970, a fifth had graduated from college; in 2013, 41% had done so. What is going on?

#1 Rise in foreign college graduates

Immigrants have been tilted to college graduates more than native-born Americans for fifty years, at least. In 1970, about 20% of newly arrived immigrants had at least a bachelor’s degree compared with slightly more than 10% of U.S.-born adults. In 2013, 41% of newly arrived immigrants had completed at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 30% of U.S.-born adults and 41% of White Americans.

Note that since 1990, college graduation rates by persons in the United States increased. “From 1990 to 2014, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained a bachelor’s or higher degree increased for Whites (from 26 to 41%), Blacks (from 13 to 22%), Hispanics (from 8 to 15%), and Asians/ Pacific Islanders (from 43 to 61 percent).” Go here.

#2: Rise in post-graduate degrees

Newly arrived immigrants also are more likely than U.S.-born adults to hold advanced degrees: In 2013, 18% did so, compared with 11% among those born in the U.S.

#3 Huge impact of more Asian immigrants, fewer Central American

In 2013 new Asian immigrants, half of whom have college degrees, for the first time exceeded Latin American immigrants in number. The number of new Asian immigrants was stable from 2000 until 2008, and then rose. New Latin American immigrant numbers started dropping in 2005; in 2013 their number had dropped by half, and Mexican numbers really dropped.

Asian immigrants are highly educated compared to 28% of the total immigrant population and 30%:

  • In 2013, 4% of Chinese immigrants (ages 25 and over) had a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • 76% of Indian immigrants have college degrees.

The composition of Latin American immigrants has changed. New South American immigrants are better educated than Central American immigrants.  17% of recent Mexican immigrants have some college or more, up from 13% in 1990.

# 4 The entire world is better educated.

The improved levels of education of recently arrived immigrants partly reflects rising education levels worldwide. In 2010, 45% of the world’s population had attended secondary school, up from less than 20% in 1960. Half of 20 to 24 year olds in Mexico graduated from high school compared to less than 10% in 1965. In 2013, 23% of new arrivals did not have a high school degree compared to 50% in 1970.

Still, the share of recent arrivals without a high school education is higher than native-born Americans. Native born Americans with at least high school degree rose steadily since 1970, when about 40% did not have a high school degree. Today, 10% of native-born Americans do not have a high school degree.

The educational profile of all Hispanics in the U.S. remains low, due to the low formal education of previous waves of Hispanic immigrants. “1990 and 2014, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who completed at least a high school diploma or its equivalent increased for Whites (from 90 to 96 percent), Blacks (from 82 to 92 percent), Hispanics (from 58 to 75 percent), and Asians/Pacific Islanders (from 92 to 97 percent).” Go here.

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