Our Immigrants Are Smarter than Your Immigrants

Drawing upon 2009 U.S. Census data, the Brookings Institution has mapped out the ratio of high, moderate and low skilled immigrants in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. The good news for Virginia: All three of our major metros — Washington, Hampton Roads and Richmond — are among the 44 regions in which high-skill immigrants outnumbered low-skill immigrants.

While the public stereotypes immigrants as being mostly low skilled (a stereotype that may be true in the case of illegal aliens), the share of working-age immigrants holding a bachelor’s degree has increased significantly since 1980 and now exceeds the share with less than a high school diploma.

  • Among Virginia metropolitan areas, Washington had the largest immigrant population in 2009 — 1.1 million, representing 20% of the workforce. Some 375,000 of the immigrants are classified as “high skilled.”
  • Hampton Roads had 98,000 immigrants, accounting for 5.8% of the population. Of those, 26,000 were classified as high skilled.
  • Richmond had 76,000 immigrants, representing 6.2% of the population. Of those, 22,000 were classified as high skilled.

(Click on map for more legible image.)


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