How immigration looks better in San Jose, CA than in Green Bay. WI

A resident in an inland city can be far less enamored with immigration than would a resident in a traditional coastal gateway region, based on what she sees and hears.

Recent immigrants are well educated – 40% have college degrees. They prefer the coasts to inland cities.

When people with higher ed degrees migrate from state to state, they like to move to coastal cities and states and away from rust belt and other inland states. Those entering from abroad with higher ed degrees show an even stronger propensity to go to gateway cities and states. They avoid rust belt and other middle America states such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, the Great Plains, and the Mississippi valley states.

San Jose is drenched with advanced degree migrants, a huge share of which come from abroad, bringing their entrepreneurial talents and English skills. In the mid 2000s, for every 10 new arrivals in San Jose from another state, there were 12 new arrivals coming directly from outside the country. In the Greater New York area, for every 10 advanced degree arrivals from another state, six more come from abroad.

Wisconsin, however, sees fewer foreign college grads move in. Only about one in ten comes from abroad. The signs of a bounce that highly educated immigrants deliver by adding jobs can be much harder to find.

Second, low skilled immigrants can appear in a more negative light, inland.

Everywhere, half of them speak English poorly or not at all, half are Mexicans, and half are unauthorized. In the Bay Area, the low skilled support the life styles of the professional class and tourism, in restaurants and lodging, in cleaning and maintenance. They blend in with their large second and third generations, who speak English well and have acquired more work skills.

But in Wisconsin, where the foreign population is much more recent, and there are fewer second and third generation households there to blend in with. Their poor or non-existent English is more noticeable. The local public costs of educating the young of these workers are more noticeable. To the jaundiced eye of a native-born America, low skilled immigrants can display unacceptable signs of little or no English proficiency, dependency on government programs, and being illegal.


Brigitte Waldorf of Purdue University tracked advanced degree migration between 2004 and 2007, during when state-to-state (domestic migration) ran to 6.4 million persons, and migration directly from outside the country was about 1.6 million. This means that for every 100 domestic advanced degree migrants there were 27 foreign advanced degree migrants. For San Jose, California, there were 116 foreign migrants for every 100 domestic migrant; for Los Angeles, 61 foreigners for every 100 domestic. In West Virginia, 7, and in Arkansas, 15.

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