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Foreign-Born Population in Virginia: More Educated, Fewer Earnings

Virginia’s foreign-born population is skyrocketing, although the state’s approach to that segment of its population may be lagging behind.

In the last 20 years, the number of foreign-born residents in Henrico County has increased 130%. In Prince William County, it’s spiked 230%.

Laura Goren at the Commonwealth Institute says those foreign-born Virginians are more educated than the average Virginian but they have lower earnings. 

“Folks who have attained particular advanced credentials outside of the United States may have had trouble transferring those credentials to the United States," she explains. "Which may mean that they are working in jobs below their level of skill and education.”

Frank Shafroth at George Mason University says he suspects the arrival of Amazon in Northern Virginia may make the next 20 years look very different. 

“It’s not going to take long for people who are highly educated to look on their laptop and say, ‘Hey, someone who’s not nearly as skilled and experienced as I am is being paid three to four times as much as I am,'” Shafroth says.

The Commonwealth Institute says Virginia can address what it calls the “brain drain” by making sure credentials can be transferred — one step toward making sure that the earnings gap is not based on racial bias.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.