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Involuntary Part-Time Employment Problems Among College-Educated Immigrants in the United States

This is the fourth paper in a series of papers that examines labor market underutilization problems experienced by college-educated immigrants who earned college degrees outside the United States compared with their counterparts who earned college degrees in the United States.
Author(s): 
Neeta P. Fogg, Ph.D.
Paul E. Harrington, Ph.D.
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation: 
Center for Labor Markets and Policy Drexel University Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Under Subcontract to NOVA Research Company, Bethesda, Maryland
Published: 
2012
Resource Type: 
Product
Number of Pages: 
43
Product Type: 
Target Audience: 
Required Training: 

None

Abstract: 

 This is the fourth paper in a series of papers that examines labor market underutilization problems experienced by college-educated immigrants who earned college degrees outside the United States compared with their counterparts who earned college degrees in the United States. Labor market underutilization can occur in several ways, and this series of papers examines the four key ways in which underutilization can occur in American labor markets.

This paper examines the extent of underutilization that occurs after securing a job in the form of involuntary part-time employment. College-educated immigrants who are working in part-time jobs but want full-time jobs do not utilize to the fullest extent the human capital that they acquired with their college education. Understanding the extent of underutilization in the form of involuntary part-time employment among different groups of college-educated immigrants can provide important insights to guide policies targeted towards reducing barriers to the full integration of college-educated immigrants into American labor markets.

Findings in this paper reveal that although college graduates who were born abroad were less likely to work in part-time jobs than were their native-born counterparts (9% versus 11%), the prevalence of involuntary part-time employment was considerably higher among immigrants (27%) than among those born in the United States (14%). Male college-educated immigrants were considerably more likely to be employed in part-time positions involuntarily than were female college-educated immigrants (41% versus 23%).

Involuntary part-time employment varied among college-educated immigrants by other demographic characteristics such as age, marital status, disability status, and school enrollment status. Generally, immigrants with a stronger labor market focus (such as those without children, the unmarried, or those not enrolled in school) were more likely to work full-time and have a desire for full-time employment, and when they worked in part-time positions, they were more likely to do so involuntarily.

The paper found little systematic association between the level of college degree of college-educated immigrants and the prevalence of involuntary part-time employment among them. Even though the level of college education affects the likelihood of finding employment, once employed, the level of college education of immigrants did not affect their likelihood of working involuntarily in part-time employment.

The rate of involuntary part-time employment among immigrant college graduates, however, varied widely by major field of study. At the very top were mathematics majors, among whom nearly 6 of 10 part-time workers wanted full-time jobs. The prevalence of involuntary part-time employment was also high (about 40%) among college-graduate immigrants with degrees in the biological sciences and law. At the lower end, college graduates who had majored in health and medical science, humanities, psychology, and physical sciences had somewhat higher part-time employment rates that may be indicative of somewhat higher voluntary part-time employment and, conversely, lower involuntary part-time employment.

Other traits of immigrants that were related to involuntary part-time employment were type of entry visa and region of residence in the United States in 2003. Immigrants who had entered the United States with work visas had a higher rate of involuntary part-time employment than did all other entry visa groups. Entry to the United States with work visas indicated a stronger commitment to the labor market and a greater desire for full-time employment. Over 95 percent of these immigrants (with work visas) were employed in full-time positions, and of the remainder who were working in part-time positions, over 31 percent were doing so involuntarily—a figure 5 percentage points higher than the involuntary part-time employment rate (about 26%) among those who had entered the United States with other types of visas (permanent resident, student, or dependent visas). Immigrants living in the South region of the United States at the time of the 2003 National Survey of College Graduates had a considerably lower rate of involuntary part-time employment (20%) than did those who lived in other regions: West (34%), Northeast (28%), and Midwest (24%).

The main focus of this paper is the variation in involuntary part-time employment by country or region where immigrant college graduates earned their college degrees. Immigrants who had earned their college degrees abroad were somewhat more likely to be involuntarily employed in part-time jobs than were those with U.S. degrees (28% versus 26%). Among part-time-employed college-educated immigrants with non-U.S. college degrees, the rate of involuntary part-time employment was just 6 percent among those with British, Canadian or Australian college degrees and 18 percent among Indian college degree holders. Immigrants with college degrees from these two regions of the world had lower rates of involuntary part-time employment than the 26 percent rate among those with U.S. college degrees. The involuntary part-time employment rates of immigrants from the remaining six countries or regions of the world were higher than that of their U.S.-educated counterparts, ranging from nearly 40 percent among immigrants with Chinese college degrees to 27 percent among those with college degrees from Africa.

Part-time employment was not common among employed immigrant college graduates. However, among those working part-time, the proportion who were doing so involuntarily was quite high, 27 percent. Involuntary part-time employment was systematically related to the country in which college-educated immigrants had earned their college degrees. Having a college degree from abroad, particularly from China, Europe excluding the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Latin America, Asia (excluding India), and Africa, was closely associated with high rates of involuntary part-time employment. Since part-time employment is not widely prevalent among employed college-educated immigrants, the share of all employed college-educated immigrants facing this underutilization problem (involuntary part-time employment) was relatively small. However, among those working in part-time positions a sizable share reported wanting to work full-time.

Findings in this paper show that labor market underutilization in the form of involuntary part-time employment imposed steep costs on college-educated immigrants. Our examination of labor market losses found that compared with full-time-employed college-educated immigrants, those who were working in part-time jobs involuntarily had 72 percent lower annual earnings, 58 percent lower annual hours of work, and a considerably higher likelihood of working in non-college labor market jobs.

Benefits and Uses: 

 Findings of this study show low levels of part-time work but high levels of underutilization among part-time-employed college-educated immigrants in the form of involuntary part-time employment. The rate of involuntary part-time employment was considerably higher among foreign-born college-educated individuals (27%) than among their native-born counterparts (14%). The study found that immigrants who had earned their college degrees abroad were somewhat more likely to be involuntarily employed in part-time jobs than were those with U.S. degrees (28% versus 26%). Among part-time-employed college-educated immigrants with non-U.S. college degrees, the rate of involuntary part-time employment was just 6 percent among those with British, Canadian, or Australian college degrees and 18 percent among Indian college degree holders. Immigrants with college degrees from these two regions of the world had lower rates of involuntary part-time employment than the 26 percent rate among those with U.S. college degrees. The involuntary part-time employment rates of immigrants from the remaining six countries or regions of the world were higher than that of their U.S.-educated counterparts, ranging from nearly 40 percent among immigrants with Chinese college degrees to 27 percent among those with college degrees from Africa.

The study also found that labor market underutilization in the form of involuntary part-time employment imposed steep costs on college-educated immigrants. Compared with full-time-employed college-educated immigrants, those who were working in part-time jobs involuntarily had 72 percent lower annual earnings, 58 percent lower annual hours of work, and a considerably higher likelihood of working in non-college labor market jobs.

This paper will assist users to better understand labor market underutilization problems among the employed college-educated U.S. immigrant population. It can provide insights that could lead to policy development to not just increase employment opportunities of immigrant college graduates, but improve the quality of their employment to more fully utilize their college education. It also will assist the Department of Education in determining needs for programs to improve college-educated immigrant integration into the U.S. workforce through various types of training (e.g., ELS, job search efficacy) and/or retraining programs.

The most significant features of this report are increased understanding of issues and characteristics of underutilization of college-educated immigrants in the United States who are already employed.

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