E.g., 06/24/2024
E.g., 06/24/2024
Leaving Money on the Table: The Persistence of Brain Waste among College-Educated Immigrants

With rising job vacancies and a workforce and society that are aging, the United States already has a reservoir of human capital that is not fully tapped: The millions of U.S.-born and immigrant college graduates who are in jobs requiring no more than a high school credential or who are unemployed. This human capital, if well leveraged, could bring important benefits to the U.S. economy, local communities, and the workers themselves.

Nonetheless, few strategic efforts have been made to address this skill underutilization, often referred to as "brain waste." Its effects fall particularly hard on Black and Latino college graduates, whether immigrant or U.S. born, as this report details.

Using U.S. Census Bureau data, this report analyzes state and national factors linked to brain waste, with particular attention to the stark patterns of racial and ethnic disadvantage that emerge in underemployment trends. It also discusses how place of education, English-language proficiency, legal status, and profession may predict the likelihood of skill underutilization for highly educated immigrants.

The report concludes with recommendations for federal and state policymakers and other stakeholders to improve credentialing and other barriers that prevent immigrants and the U.S. born from working at their skill level.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  Trends in the U.S. College-Educated Population and Workforce

3  The Persisting Challenge of Brain Waste
A. The Extent of Brain Waste
B. Key Factors Linked to Brain Waste

4  State Trends in Immigrant Underemployment

5  Concluding Thoughts