January 2009

No. 3950: Ethnicity and the Immigration of Highly Skilled Workers to the United States

published in: International Journal of Manpower, 2009, 30 (1+2), 26-42

This paper examines ethnicity among highly skilled immigrants to the United States. The paper focuses on five classic components of ethnicity – country of birth, race, skin color, language, and religion – among persons admitted to legal permanent residence in the United States in 2003 in the three main employment categories (EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3), using data collected in the U.S. New Immigrant Survey. Initial findings include: (1) The visa categories have distinctive ethnic configurations. India dominates EB-2 and European countries EB-1. (2) The ethnicity portfolio contains more languages than religions. (3) Language is shed before religion, and religion may not be shed at all, except among the ultra highly skilled of EB-1. (4) Highly skilled immigrants are mostly male; they are not immune from lapsing into illegality; they have a shorter visa process than their cohortmates; smaller proportions than in the cohort overall intend to remain in the United States. (5) Larger proportions in EB-2 and EB-3 sent remittances than in the cohort overall. (6) A little measure of assimilation – using dollars to describe earnings in the country of last residence, even when requested to use the country's currency – suggests that highly skilled immigrants are more likely to "think in dollars" than their cohortmates. Further work is taking a deeper look at these patterns in a multivariate context, attentive to selectivity processes and the Globalista impulse.