Brain gain from Asia: educational and occupational selection of Asian migrants into the United States

Xiaoning Huang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study investigates how working-age Asian immigrants' educational attainment and professional abilities when arriving in the United States have evolved over the past 4 decades and draws inferences on the impact of the US employment based visa policies. Design/methodology/approach: Using data from the 1980, 1990 and 2000 census and American Community Survey for 2001 to 2019, the study adopts multivariate regression and regression discontinuity design to investigate the trends in educational and occupation selection among Asian immigrants and the association with policy changes in the H1B visa program. Findings: The findings suggest that new Asian immigrants were more positively selected for education than non-Asian immigrants and US natives and this pattern of positive selection increased over time. Newly arrived South Asian and East Asian immigrants had the highest share of highly educated professionals than Southeast Asians and US-born persons. I infer that the enactment and changes in the H1-B program might have contributed to the changing patterns of the educational and occupational selection among East and South Asian Immigrants. The results also shed light on how Asian immigrants' skill selection might be related to the size of Asian diasporas in the US and sending countries' income, inequality and education level. Originality/value: The story of changing the skill profile (educational and occupational profile) of newly arrived Asian immigrants during 1980–2019 can provide valuable policy implications. US immigration policies are routinely criticized for being inefficient and outdated. The economic prosperity of Asian countries over time also provides an excellent opportunity to test the theories pertaining to how sending countries' income, inequality and education level of the population are associated with Asian migrants' education and occupation when arriving in the US. This study can provide insightful perspectives for policymakers and business decision-makers to adapt to the changing demographics of Asian migrant workers. The most recent reports on Asian immigrants in the US highlighted the aggregated trends of migration flow and education. Still, none have provided a longitudinal and nuanced review of Asian immigrants' educational and occupational selection into the US.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-402
Number of pages30
JournalInternational Journal of Manpower
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2023


  • Immigration
  • Immigration in the US
  • Immigration policy
  • Immigration theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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