REPORT: Foreign-Educated Immigrants Less Skilled than US-Educated

‘Policy-makers should be cautious in treating foreign degrees as evidence of ‘high-skill’ immigration…’


Photo by US Department of Education (CC)

(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) A report from the Center for Immigration Studies found that foreign-educated immigrants with college and advanced degrees exhibit less literacy, numeracy and skill in computer operation than their American-educated counterparts.

“Policy-makers should be cautious in treating foreign degrees as evidence of ‘high-skill’ immigration,” said Jason Richwine, the study’s author. “If legislators are considering a move towards a merit-based system, they should look beyond educational credentials.”

Richwine analyzed test data from the Department of Education’s Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies.

Native citizens with U.S. degrees outperformed both immigrants with foreign degrees and immigrants with U.S. degrees.


U.S.-educated native citizens scored in the 74th percentile in both literacy and numeracy and in the 67th percentile in computer operations.

U.S.-educated immigrants scored in the 66th percentile in literacy, the 72nd percentile in numeracy, and the 56th percentile in computer operations.

Foreign-educated immigrants fared the worst of all.

Despite their college and advanced degrees, they scored below the U.S. average in literacy and computer operations.

Immigrants with foreign degrees scored in the 42nd percentile in literacy, the 58th percentile in numeracy, and the 34th percentile in computer operations.

Foreign-educated immigrants may have bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degrees, but they score in the same range in literacy and computer operations as native U.S. citizens who earned only their high school diploma.

In numeracy, immigrants with foreign degrees rank the same as U.S. natives who completed some college but never earned a degree.

Richwine said the skill gap between U.S. natives and foreigners persists even after immigrants have had five years to learn English in America.

“In Congress, some proposed immigration reforms acknowledge the greater value of U.S. degrees,” Richwine wrote in the report’s conclusion. “For example, the RAISE Act would establish a points system for high-skill immigrants that prioritizes U.S. degrees over foreign degrees. It would also go beyond educational credentials by giving extra points for English fluency, STEM specialties and pre-arranged employment.”