Educational Attainment: Education is an important metric to evaluate economic mobility.

Each indicator page features a series of charts, insights and analysis, case studies, resources, and related indicators.

Insights and Analyses

  • Institutional and systemic barriers contribute to disparities in educational attainment for immigrants, which also varies by immigration status. As of 2021, across the state, 18% of naturalized citizens and 7% of U.S.-born individuals had less than a high school degree, compared to 28% of lawful residents and 53% of undocumented immigrants.
  • Disparities in educational attainment also vary by race, as different immigrant communities face unique sets of institutional and systemic challenges like language access. Data disaggregation is critical in pointing out these disparities. Among Asian American immigrants in California, in 2021, 82% of Indian immigrants had a bachelor’s degree or higher while only 23% of Hmong, 21% of Cambodian, and 20% of Laotians did. Among Pacific Islander immigrants, only about 17% of Fijian and 10% of Tongan immigrants had a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Some immigrants arrive in the U.S. with credentials and certifications from their country of origin. However, due to barriers in licensing and credentialing, many immigrants are unable to exercise their skills and expertise, leaving many underemployed or unemployed.
  • Immigrant and refugee healthcare professionals who face challenges securing jobs in the U.S., due in part to licensing requirements, could represent a critical pool of responders during the pandemic. Estimates by the Migration Policy Institute reveal that in 2017, California had the highest number (60,000 individuals) of immigrant health care workers experiencing skill underutilization.

Business leaders and educators form a long-term partnership to create a training program that prepares youth for jobs in Orange County’s growth industries.

In 2006, the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Santa Ana Unified School District to develop a training curriculum that provides students, many of whom were a part of the growing immigrant population in the city, with job training in the six growth sectors of the Santa Ana region. This unique partnership is narrowing the skills gap between the local workforce and local industries, providing college as well as career preparedness programs, and acclimating to shifting labor markets. Now a nonprofit organization, High School Inc. (HSI) Academies Foundation is training local students in automotive, transportation and logistics; culinary arts and hospitality; engineering; global business; healthcare; and new media sectors. The 2020-2021 HSI program supported 1,633 students, resulting in a 98% average graduation rate among students in the 12th grade, 1,012 donated industry volunteer hours, 521 industry certifications, 129 students participating in competitions, and 60 completed internships. Among program participants, 70% are the first in their family to receive a high school diploma, 80% come from families where English is not spoken at home, and 96% of students are the first in their family to either enroll in college or be hired in an industry trade. To learn more about the program read here.

Photo credit: High School Inc. Academies Foundation

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