Migration policy and educational attainment

Two men on a lunch break, Bangalore.

Thanks to the financial support and intellectual community fostered by CASI, I completed the interview data collection for my dissertation this summer. I conducted 26 interviews with Indian citizens living in the U.S. and India who have some migration experience in the U.S., either for studies or for work. The interviews covered their motivations for migration, their experiences at U.S. universities and companies, and the factors that played into their decision to stay in the U.S. or return to India.

I am starting to analyze these interviews, as well as the larger interview and employment history data sets I constructed and am working on a journal submission reporting on the results of this mixed-methods project. The results of this study suggest that immigration policies play an important role in regulating the flow and nature of international student migration streams, and lead to simultaneous convergence and divergence in the educational attainment and field of study between Indian international students studying in the U.S., and their domestically educated peers in India. Many students have multinational educations, but the balance of students moving between Indian and U.S. universities leans heavily towards the United States. Indian international students are more concentrated in STEM majors than their non-migrant peers, and funnel into certain concentrations in engineering.

These findings are significant because they illustrate the ways that the very conditions enabling global integration in higher education can simultaneously contribute to a diversification of knowledge production in specific country contexts. Migration policy enables the partial convergence U.S. and Indian universities and labor markets as student and work visas contribute to the growth of international student enrollment and multinational educations, but the design of these immigration policies also leads to an asymmetrical flow of international students, and funnels international students into certain fields of study, creating divergence between international and domestic student educational attainment. And unpredictable fluctuations in migration policy related to higher education, like Trump’s announcement that was rescinded a week later about international student enrollment requirements to maintain visa status during the pandemic, can create stress and disruptions in students’ academic plans that can influence future enrollment behavior.

My next step for this project is to analyse the settlement patterns of Indian migrants by place of education.

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About Liz Jacobs

Elizabeth Jacobs is a Doctoral Candidate in the Sociology department at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research spans the areas of migration, globalization, and immigrant incorporation and centers on the global flows of people, knowledge, and culture. Liz’s current research agenda considers how state, corporate, and academic institutions enable and constrain global mobility. Liz is conducting a mixed-methods dissertation project that aims to answer long-standing questions about skilled migration and return migration using novel data sources. She is constructing a new dataset of migration histories, using employment history data from LinkedIn to study the migration behavior of skilled migrants in the United States. Specifically, she is examining how these flows are shaped by gender ideologies, and how public and private institutions collaborate and conflict as they shape global migration.