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High-Immigration States Tend To Have Less-Educated Workers | NumbersUSA - For Lower Immigration Levels

Home > Hot Topics > Foreign Worker Timeout > High-Immigration States Tend To Have Less-Educated Workers

High-Immigration States Tend To Have Less-Educated Workers


Our new maps (see below) suggest that if a state wants an educated workforce that creates a strong middle class and high tax base, it might want to avoid high immigration.

Take Nevada as an example. In 1970, it had the 5th best-educated laborforce in the country (based on rate of high school dropouts).

But the map on the left shows Nevada colored red for now being in the worst category of high school dropouts (having plummeted to a rank of 48th in the nation).

% of HS Dropouts % Foreign Born
HS dropouts Foreign Born %
(Click on each map to see full-size version with state details and rank)

What might account for such a disastrous drop? Note that the map on the right also shows Nevada colored red -- in this case, for being in the highest level of immigration. (Interestingly, its long-time U.S. Senator, Harry Reid, continues to be one of the country's strongest advocates of pushing immigration to even higher levels.)

Both Senators from California (colored red for highest immigration) also are urging higher levels of immigration. After 40 years of high immigration, California has plummeted from No. 7 in educated laborforces to No. 50.

On the left map, look at the red and orange states with the most high school dropouts in the laborforce. Notice how most of those states are also colored red or orange on the right map for having the most immigrants.

OK, now look at the 18 green states on the left map that have the smallest dropout rate. Then, note that all but three of those green lowest-dropout states are colored on the right map as either green or yellow for having the lowest rates of immigration.

I hope you will click on the laborforce map to view an enlarged version where you can find the ranking and precise high school dropout rate for each state.

The maps raise serious questions about boosters' claims that high immigration is essential for a state to have a good economy.

Instead, it looks like states that have managed to have low immigration have tended to compete better on one of the key indicators of a healthy economic future -- a better educated workforce.


For decades, experts of all kinds have argued that states must have more and more educated workers in order to compete in the global economy, to have a large middle class and to produce the taxes necessary for the modern level of state social safety nets and services. Our laborforce map shows how well the various states are competing with each other in this category, with the red and orange states failing to compete well in terms of workers at least having a high school degree.

Our summer interns from Duke University have calculated the correlation between the two maps. Their correlation analysis found that a 1% increase in the foreign-born population correlated to almost a half a percent (0.486 percentage point) increase in the dropout rate.

The main reason immigrants have a higher percentage of high school dropouts in the laborforce appears to be because so many immigrants arrive in the United States with little education, rather than because of a lack of aptitude among immigrant children (although the low-income and low-English-proficiency of the children's parents certainly play a role, too).

To be sure, immigration is not the only or majority cause of a state competing poorly with other states in terms of educated workers. For example, low education rates have always been a problem and a cause for poverty in the low-immigration states of southern Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta where the legacies of mountain-isolation and slave-economy cultures have yet to be overcome.

But who could have dreamed in 1970 that the states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama would no longer be at the bottom and would have better educated workers than California, Texas, Nevada and Arizona after 40 years of high immigration there?

The Appalachian state of West Virginia (after virtually no immigration) now has barely half the high school drop-out rate in the laborforce as California!

We are grateful to the Center for Immigration Studies for its original report on the Census high school dropout data on persons in the laborforce (counting both those with a job or those looking for a job).

Please make use of this map -- forward it, print it, distribute it. Make sure that these maps are shown to all self-proclaimed experts in editorial pages, Chambers of Commerce or politics who claim that immigration is a boost to the economic prospects of your state or locale.

ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA

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