The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) yesterday released a report claiming that, due to immigration, “by 2008 California had the least-educated labor force in the nation in terms of the share [of] its workers without a high school education.” The report, entitled A State Transformed: Immigration and the New California, grossly mischaracterizes the educational profile of the California labor force by focusing exclusively on a single educational category: those without a high-school diploma. However, a more thorough analysis of recent Census data by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) reveals that California’s labor force is also rich in highly educated workers, many of whom are immigrants. CIS is attempting to propagate the stereotype of immigrants as being uneducated, when – in fact – immigrants have always filled U.S. labor needs at both ends of the educational spectrum.

PPIC Associate Director of Research Hans P. Johnson reviewed data from the 2008 American Community Survey and found that, despite a preponderance of workers without a high-school diploma (a large share of whom are immigrants), California ranks 12th in the nation in the share of workers who have a graduate degree – and 19th in the share with a bachelor’s degree. Moreover, 31% of California workers with a graduate degree are immigrants, which is a higher share than any other state.

The data reviewed by Dr. Johnson also reveals that recent immigrants in California include an even larger share of highly educated workers. Among immigrant workers age 19 and over who arrived in California from 2005 to 2008, 36% had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 33% who had not finished high school. Among those workers old enough to have graduated from college (age 24 and over), 41% of immigrant workers who arrived in California from 2005 to 2008 had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 32% who had not graduated from high school.

This is hardly the educational profile of the “least-educated state” – as CIS dubs California in the press release announcing its latest report. Nor do these figures support the CIS caricature of all immigrants in California as high-school dropouts. CIS has once again used statistics in a highly selective, and deceptive, manner in order to present a distorted educational portrait of Californians in general and foreign-born Californians in particular. Immigrants in California span the educational continuum, filling both less-skilled and highly skilled jobs that add value to the U.S. and California economies. CIS ignores this basic fact in its rush to denigrate and stereotype all immigrants.

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