Michigan navigates immigrant brain waste well compared to other states

National Reports highlight the effects of brain waste in seven key states. Great Lakes State provides resources to maximize skilled immigrant labor.

Photo: Migration Policy Institute
Photo: Migration Policy Institute

A national report titled “Untapped Talent: The Costs of Brain Waste Among Highly Skilled Immigrants in the United States” (UTBW) highlights the challenges college-educated immigrants face living in the United States. The report, written by the Migration Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in Washington D.C. and New American Economy, a coalition designed to support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans, estimates that nearly 2 million college-educated immigrants are “either working in low-skilled jobs or unemployed in the U.S. labor market.” Brain waste is the underutilization of skills and education in the work place.

Brain waste is a national issue, but according to UTBW, some states are affected more than others. The UTBW findings highlight figures specifically for seven states attracting immigrants: California, Florida, New York, Texas, Washington, Michigan and Ohio. Together these states account for 57 percent of the nearly 8 million college-educated immigrants in the USA. Of all seven, Florida had the highest rate of brain waste (32 percent) whereas Michigan and Ohio, two key industrial states, had the lowest (20-21 percent). This low level of brain waste in Michigan may be in part to the proactive efforts to attract global talent and pair skilled immigrants with employment opportunities. Michigan for example, established the Michigan Office for New Americans (MONA) in 2015 to attract global talent and provide resources for skilled, college-educated immigrants. MONA supports immigration and immigrant integration initiatives for the state.

Some other positive news for the Great Lakes State immigrant population can be found by visiting the American Immigration Council.

In fact, according the Immigration Policy Center’s New Americans in Michigan 2017 report, “Immigrants make up nearly 7 percent of the state’s population, and more than half of them are naturalized citizens who are eligible to vote.” The Center’s 2015 report explains the economic power behind Michigan’s immigrants, which include Asians, Latinos, and Arabs. Just Asians and Latinos (foreign born and native-born) alone have $21.6 billion in consumer purchasing power. Arab communities in Michigan alone generate approximately $544 million in state tax revenue each year generated from $7.7 billion from employment across the counties making up the Metropolitan Detroit area.

Further reducing Michigan’s brain waste can help maximize Michigan’s potential for economic development.  Additional information on this topic can be found on immigration in Michigan by visiting Michigan State University Extension and searching “immigrants”.  For starters, interested residents may find these two links quite helpful in understanding the importance immigrants play in the Great Lakes State.

  1. New American in Michigan
  2. The Changing Labor Landscape


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