NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Immigrants Are Less Educated Than Previously

March 6, 2001

Since changes in immigration law during the 1960s, the United States has experienced the largest sustained wave of immigration in its history. Approximately 800,000 legal immigrants enter the country annually, a dramatic increase from the 1960s when about 300,000 immigrants entered each year.

In addition to a huge increase in their numbers, the composition of immigrant populations has changed significantly. Whereas once immigrants arrived largely from Europe, today 85 percent are non-European. More significantly, there has been a sharp decline in the educational level of new immigrants, relative to natives.

In 1999, about one-third of new immigrants were high school dropouts -- compared to only 10 percent of natives -- and one third of all high school dropouts are now immigrants.

  • Forty-three percent of our immigrants are employed in low-skill jobs such as farm worker, maid and construction laborer.
  • Sixty-two percent of the minor children of post-1970 immigrants live in or near poverty, more than double the rate of natives.
  • Almost one-third of the children of post-1970 immigrants do not have health insurance -- also double native rates -- and immigrants accounted for 60 percent of the growth in the population lacking health insurance since 1993.

With 11 million new immigrants expected to settle in the United States in the next decade, now is the time to change immigration rules, says Steven Camarota. One possible course of action that could be politically popular as well as very helpful to our economy and society would be to, first, embrace a pro-immigrant policy that would seek to better incorporate new immigrants into the United States. Then reduce total numbers of immigrants to ease current assimilation strains. And, finally establish a system favoring better educated immigrants.

Source: Steven Camarota, "Our New Immigration Predicament," American Enterprise, December 2000, American Enterprise Institute.


Browse more articles on Government Issues