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Immigrants make less than US citizens despite higher education

On Behalf of | Apr 24, 2019 | Immigration |

A common rhetoric heard among people who are anti-immigrant in Nebraska is that immigrants are taking their jobs. This statement was thrown around long before the current president took office, but has certainly become more prominent since the 2016 presidential elections.

What is interesting is that the immigrants most capable of taking local jobs are not the ones anti-immigrant Americans are usually concerned with. For example, according to one Forbes article, the Asian community are the mostly highly educated immigrants in America. More than half of Asian immigrants have a bachelor’s degree or higher in comparison to an American average of 32% with bachelor’s degrees or higher.

Instead, much of the immigration policies are focused on Latin Americans, particularly from Mexico. In contrast to both the Asian and local American population, only 12.9% of Latin American immigrants have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Thus, while there are exceptions, Latin Americans traditionally take on blue collar work that many American-born citizens are moving away from.

As far as the overall immigrant population, one-third have a bachelor’s degree or higher, which clearly rivals non-immigrant Americans. In spite of this, there is a massive wage gap between U.S. citizens and immigrants all across the United States, which may speak to a failure to assimilate, local biases or a mixture of both factors.

The NerdWallet study referenced by Forbes showed that in 45 American states, immigrants made considerably less than American-born citizens. Nebraska came in third on the list of states where immigrants faced the widest wage gap, with a median annual household income gap of $17,715.

Even immigrant-friendly California made it to the top ten with an income difference of $15,065. The only states where immigrants actually earned more than American-born households were Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Mississippi and Michigan.

With such a wide spread of states that made it to the top ten worst income gaps versus those where immigrants out-earned Americans, it is difficult to pinpoint the specific factors at play. However, one thing remains clear. Though the pool of legal immigrants coming into the country are generally more educated than the local employee pool, Americans continue to hold on to higher-paying positions in 90% of American states.