Amor and exile in the eyes of a fourth-grader

As a follow-up to my post about our visit to ITJ Campus Queretaro to talk about Amor and Exile, I thought I would post a couple of lovely reports from fourth-graders at ITJ from the closing ceremonies of their unit on migration. I had to work this morning but a friend who has a child at ITJ sent me the photos of the reports via Facebook message.

Report on Amor and Exile from fourth-graders at ITJ Queretaro. c. 2014 by the report authors

It was interesting for me to see how our story is viewed from the eyes of 10 or 11 year olds. It’s cool how they picked up on things that we didn’t even say. And even cooler how they were able to inspire me back with their reflections on our story.

Another report on Amor and Exile from fourth-graders at ITJ Queretaro. c. 2014 by the report authors

Thanks again to the teachers at ITJ Queretaro for including us in your great, reality-based education model. And thanks to the students for your great reviews. Now if only you could export your learnings up north…

**Errata noted since publication: the students are fourth-graders, not third-graders as originally posted. My apologies!

Skill vs. education in immigration

Brookings has a study out today that shows that there are now more immigrants with college degrees in the U.S. than immigrants without high school diplomas. In 1980, only 19 percent of immigrants had their BA or higher; today that number is 29.6 percent.

This is an important, stereotype busting, statistic but I’m not sure that thinking of these numbers in terms of skills is entirely accurate. The Brookings study calls that 29.6 percent “high skilled” and refers to the 27.8 percent of immigrants who have not completed high school as “low skilled.” The largest group—42.6 percent—are somewhere in the middle, having completed secondary education and maybe some college.

Table shows rise of the highly educated immigrant. From "The Geography of Immigrant Skills: Educational Profiles of Metropolitan Areas," Hall, et. al., Brookings (click graphic for full report).

The authors do acknowledge that skill and educational attainment are not the same thing, but justify their terminology this way:

To be sure, educational attainment is not a perfect measure of occupational skill, particularly among the foreign-born, for whom the quality of educational degrees received abroad may vary substantially. Nor is educational attainment the only measure of human capital, which can include labor market experience and job- and sector-specific knowledge and training. Yet educational attainment itself remains a strong predictor of employment, job stability, and wages—especially for workers at the high and low ends of the educational distribution.

But I’d take issue with that, at least anecdotally. Many immigrants who have not completed high school are nonetheless highly skilled in whatever field they have chosen: building, fixing cars, agriculture, etc., even running small businesses. And in my experience, this high skill is often recognized and rewarded by U.S. employers, regardless of resume. I’d like to see more data on the assertion that schooling is still a strong predictor of employment and wages.

I do like how Audrey Singer, one of the authors of the report, talks about the context of the issue and it’s relevance for immigration reform, without demonizing “low-skill” immigrants:

Her tone jives with one of the key findings of the report:

Our report confirms what some industries, employers and municipalities have already begun to recognize: that the new arrivals to this country should be viewed as a positive and skilled addition to the labor force rather than as a strain on society. By examining the new geography of immigrant skills across the 100 top metropolitan areas, we have also provided the data necessary for beginning to explore more inclusive immigration policies at the local, state and regional levels.

Perhaps that opens the door for more cities and states to think proactively on immigration rather than in the reactionary way we’ve been seeing.