Published: July 11, 2019


Migrants to Australia bring with them high levels of human capital both in terms of cognitive abilities and personality traits, according to a new Life Course Centre Working Paper.

These findings show that concerns about the quality of migrants attracted to Australia are misguided. Rather, migrants to Australia possess very strong human capital, which may be one of the secrets to Australia’s sustained run of economic growth over the past 30 years.

The Working Paper, authored by Dr Maryam Naghsh Nejad of the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation at the University of Technology Sydney in conjunction with Life Course Centre Research Fellow Associate Professor Stefanie Schurer of the School of Economics at the University of Sydney, examines migrant quality using nationally representative survey data from the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA). Along with many other OECD countries, Australia has long had a skill-selective immigration scheme that is based on language proficiency, educational attainment, occupational qualification and health. However, relatively little is known about whether such policies achieve their desired outcome of increasing average migrant quality.

This study finds that immigrants in Australia are remarkably positively selected in terms of their personality traits and cognitive ability. It finds first-generation immigrants outperform non-immigrant Australians in extraversion, conscientious, openness to new experiences, and agreeableness. They also pass on their favourable non-cognitive abilities to their children, who outperform non-immigrant Australians on a range of ability tests.

You can read the full Working Paper, ‘Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Abilities of Immigrants: New Perspectives on Migrant Quality from a Selective Immigration Country’, here.