Population Research and Policy Review 20: 81–105, 2001.
© 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Employment and earnings of foreign-born scientists and
THOMAS J. ESPENSHADE, MARGARET L. USDANSKY &
CHANG Y. CHUNG
Ofﬁce of Population Research, Princeton University
Research on skilled immigrants is an important, yet much neglected, topic
in studies of the effects of immigration on the U.S. economy. Much of aca-
demic research and indeed most of the immigration policy debate have been
preoccupied with unskilled or less-skilled migrants (Smith & Edmonston
1997). It is easy to understand this emphasis. The typical immigrant possesses
less schooling than the average native worker (Funkhouser & Trejo 1995).
Moreover, part of the growing wage gap in the United States between workers
with a college education and those without a high school diploma may be due
to labor market competition between immigrants and lesser skilled native,
particularly minority, workers (Smith & Edmonston 1997).
Lost in much of the debate is the fact that immigrants are over-represented
at both ends of the educational spectrum. Data from the 1990 census show
that 42 percent of adult migrants over the age of 25 and who came to the
United States during the 1980s had less than a high-school education, com-
pared with just 23 percent of natives (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1993). On
the other hand, 24 percent of the foreign born in the same category possessed
a bachelor’s degree or higher versus 20 percent of the U.S. born.
Research on the migration of the highly skilled is also relevant to im-
migration policy. Changes in U.S. immigration laws in the past decade have
been crafted partly to address what has been perceived as the problem of a
growing shortage of skilled workers in the U.S. economy (Bouvier & Simcox
1994). For example, the Hudson Institute’s Workforce 2000 report concluded
that, “The need for more, better-educated immigrants to help staff a growing
economy will increase as the growth of the population and labor force slows
in the 1990s (Johnston & Packer 1987: xxv). In addition, Borjas (1990, 1994)