The Contributions of High-Skilled Immigrants
This report provides a background for policy discussion on high-skilled immigration to the United States by presenting an occupational profile of foreign-born professionals and highlighting their contributions to the U.S. economy. It examines where highly skilled immigrants come from, how they enter the country, what kind of talent they bring, their effects on various sectors, and their patterns of assimilation.
According to the report, approximately 30 percent of high-skilled foreign-born arrivals before 1970 are from Europe, while nearly half of those who arrived in the 1990s are from Asia, reflecting a shift in immigrant inflows. The direct modes of entry to the United States for these workers include employer-sponsored green cards and temporary work visas. In addition, many immigrants join the high-skill workforce indirectly after gaining admission to the United States through student visas or family reunification visas. The report shows that these immigrants are heavily represented in the medicine, technology, engineering, and science fields, as well as in occupations that have a bearing on national security. Among high-skilled professionals, the foreign-born are more likely to have an advanced degree than their native counterparts.
While the scholarship on the effects of thigh-skilled immigration on natives is relatively limited, research shows that immigrants and natives appear to compete within narrowly defined occupation categories. Across different occupations, however, immigrants and natives seem to complement each other in many cases. Furthermore, immigrants appear to raise labor productivity and create jobs for natives in several industries, as demonstrated by Silicon Valley technology firms. With the international demand for high-skilled foreign talent on the rise, the authors urge legislators to rethink immigration policies as not to jeopardize future flows.