Recently arrived U.S. immigrants are a growing part of the nation’s foreign-born population, which reached a record 44.4 million in 2017. Overall, their profile differs from immigrants who have been in the country longer.

By Jynnah Radford & Jens Manuel Krogstad

About 7.6 million immigrants have lived in the country for five years or less. They make up 17% of the foreign-born population, a share that has returned to 2010 levels after a slight dip. Recently arrived immigrants have markedly different education, income and other characteristics from those who have been in the U.S. for more than a decade. Proposed changes to U.S. immigration laws could favor highly skilled immigrants, which could further change the demographics of the nation’s foreign-born population. U.S. adults support encouraging highly skilled people to immigrate and work in the U.S., according to a 2018 survey from Pew Research Center.

Related: statistical portrait of the nation’s foreign-born population, which includes historical trends since 1960

Here are several ways the differences between shorter- and longer-tenured U.S. immigrants have changed over time:

  1. Short-term residents have more education than long-term residents, and the gap between these immigrant groups has widened. Almost half (47%) of immigrants ages 25 and older who arrived in the U.S. during the previous five years have a bachelor’s degree or more as of 2017, compared with just 28% of those who have lived in the country for more than 10 years. The share among newer arrivals has grown since 2010, when 36% had a college degree, compared with 25% of longer-tenured immigrants. Overall, the education levels of U.S. immigrants have increased, due in part to growing numbers of international students and highly skilled workers. By contrast, 32% of the U.S.-born population has a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  2. Recently arrived immigrants have higher unemployment rates than longer-term immigrants. Immigrants who arrived in the past five years have a 7.1% unemployment rate, compared with a 3.9% unemployment rate for immigrants who have lived in the country for more than 10 years, according to Pew Research Center analysis of American Community Survey. Both groups have seen declines in unemployment since 2010, when their rates were 12.8% and 9.7%, respectively. More-recent arrivals have for decades had higher unemployment rates than longer-term residents, despite having more education. The opposite is true for the U.S. population overall: Those with more education have lower unemployment rates.

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