U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Skip Header


Foreign-Born Residents Have Diverse Education Backgrounds

Written by:

The educational background of the foreign-born population compared with the native-born population is more diverse than some people may realize.

At first glance, it may appear that foreign-born people simply have less education than the native-born population. In 2009, the percentage of the foreign-born population with less than a high school diploma or GED was 32.3 percent compared with 11.4 percent of the native-born population.

However, the difference narrows as we look at higher levels of educational attainment — and they reverse at the very highest levels:

  • Less than a high school diploma or GED is the highest education level attained for 32.3 percent of the foreign-born population and 11.4 percent of the native-born population.
  • A high school diploma or GED is the highest education level attained for 22.2 percent of the foreign-born population and 29.7 percent of the native-born population.
  • Some college or associate’s degree is the highest level attained for 18.7 percent of the foreign-born population and 30.8 percent of the native-born population.
  • A bachelor’s degree is the highest level attained for 15.8 percent of the foreign-born population and 17.9 percent of the native-born population.
  • A master’s degree is the highest level attained for 7.0 percent of the foreign-born population and 7.3 percent of the native-born population.
  • A professional degree is the highest level attained for 2.1 percent of the foreign-born population and 1.9 percent of the native-born population.
  • A doctorate degree is the highest level attained for 1.9 percent of the foreign-born population and 1.0 percent of the native-born population.

There are other differences in educational attainment of the foreign-born population, including differences by state and region. Nationally, 35 percent of the population age 25 and over who had completed less than high school was foreign-born.

In Texas and Nevada, foreign-born people made up half or more of the population 25 and older who had not completed high school. In California, the foreign-born made up 70 percent of this population. Out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, nineteen states had a higher proportion of foreign-born adults 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree compared to the proportion of native-born adults who had completed college.

The educational attainment of the foreign-born has also changed over time. The number of foreign-born residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased by 49 percent since 2000. In 2009, the foreign-born population made up 15 percent of the population 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree, up from 13 percent in 2000.

For more details about educational attainment of the foreign-born population as well as other groups, see our report Educational Attainment in United States: 2009.

Is this page helpful?
Thumbs Up Image Yes Thumbs Down Image No
NO THANKS
255 characters maximum 255 characters maximum reached
Thank you for your feedback.
Comments or suggestions?

Top

Back to Header