Global Detroit Blog

Study Reveals 300,000 Michigan Kids are from Immigrant Families, 70,000 of Whom are in High School

August 24, 2023

Matt Fry, Communications Director
Global Detroit
Cell: 248-894-1358

Anthony Capote, Immigration Research Initiative
Cell: 305-878-3177

Laura Millard Ross, Michigan League for Public Policy
Cell: 517-281-1084

Study Reveals 300,000 Michigan Kids are from Immigrant Families, 70,000 of Whom are in High School
Upcoming Grants to Community Colleges Will Support Their Success

According to a new “High School Kids in Immigrant Families” study commissioned by Global Detroit, 300,000 Michigan kids live in immigrant families, where at least one person was born outside the U.S. Of these, 70,000 are Michigan high school students — 15% of all Michigan high schoolers — including 17,000 in each graduating class over the next four years.

Given the state’s population growth and workforce development goals, it is critical for Michigan’s policymakers, higher education sector and workforce development programs to provide opportunities to this growing population. Immigrants play a critical role in Michigan’s economy, as they account for all of the state’s population growth since 1990, and international students make up 50% of the graduate students in STEM degree programs in Michigan and across the U.S. In September, Global Detroit will distribute $500,000 in Immigrant Student Success Grants to support community college programs that foster student success for immigrant and refugee students, as well as the first-generation children of immigrant families chronicled by this study.


Conducted by the Immigration Research Initiative (IRI) and the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP), and funded by Global Detroit, the study reinforces the need to create pathways for immigrants seeking postsecondary education and brings to light the increasingly important role community colleges play in serving international, immigrant, refugee, and first-generation students. In fact, according to the recently released “Compete to Win: Building a World Class Community College System” study from Business Leaders of Michigan, community colleges are one of the state’s strongest assets for providing pathways to prosperity for underserved populations, cultivating the talent pipeline, and strengthening the economy.

The “Kids in Immigrant Families” study offers important data on the geographic, language, income, and educational barriers faced by children of immigrant families. One finding indicates that students from immigrant families are nearly 4.5 times as likely to come from a family where the parents lack a high school degree. This is a critical issue, as a lack of parental education statistically lowers the likelihood of children achieving postsecondary status. “Michigan is leading the way in reaching out to high schoolers from immigrant families,” said Anthony Capote, a senior data and policy analyst at IRI. “Many of these students will go on to be the first college graduates in their families, and we have a responsibility to support them in their journeys toward that goal.”


  • In six Michigan counties (Ingham, Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw, Macomb and Kent), more than 20% of high school students are from immigrant families.
  • While 28 community colleges serve immigrant families, six community college districts (Oakland, Wayne, Grand Rapids, Macomb, Henry Ford and Lansing) serve 75% of those families. Four of these districts are in Southeast Michigan.
  • There is a significantly larger percentage of immigrant parents who have less formal education. Students from immigrant families are nearly 4.5 times as likely to come from a family where the parent lacks a high school degree. This is a critical finding, because a lack of parental education statistically lowers the likelihood of children achieving postsecondary status.
  • Among high school kids in immigrant families (15% of all high schoolers in Michigan), 50% are Asian or Pacific Islander, Black or African American, or Latinx, and over 40% are white. Many of these white high school-aged kids in immigrant families are likely Arab-American.
  • Language access can be a challenge for many immigrant parents. While 90% of high school kids in immigrant families speak English proficiently only 54% of their parents do.


Global Detroit is working to help Michigan community colleges improve services for immigrant, refugee and first-generation students. In June, Global Detroit, the State of Michigan Office of Sixty by 30, and the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) announced $1.5 million in Community College Student Success Grants. These funds include $500,000 designated for Immigrant Student Success Grants, to be awarded to community colleges in September 2023.

The Immigrant Student Success Grants are funded by the State of Michigan as part of the $5 million Global Talent Attraction and Retention Program (GTARP), a group of seven immigrant-focused workforce development initiatives that focus on attracting high-skilled New Americans, international students, and companies to Michigan; retaining these new residents, as well as those already here; and placing this skilled and credentialed workforce with Michigan companies to fill unmet talent needs, establishing Michigan as a center for global prosperity.

“We are excited to announce the Immigrant Student Success Grant awards in September and encourage all Michigan community colleges to find ways to increase immigrant student success. These are life changing opportunities for immigrant and first-generation Americans,” said Steve Tobocman, Executive Director of Global Detroit. The Immigrant Student Success Grants are believed to be the first or among the first state investments anywhere in the U.S. to fund building more inclusive community college programs and systems.

Follow Global Detroit on Facebook and bookmark our press page to learn more about the Immigrant Student Success Grants and other Global Detroit programs that help create a more equitable and prosperous Michigan through immigrant inclusion.

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Immigration Research Initiative

Immigration Research Initiative is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank on immigrant integration, looking at issues of economic, social, and cultural inclusion of immigrants in the United States. IRI is attentive to how immigrants fare in the United States and to how the receiving communities fare as they change, with particular attention to the implications for race, gender, and income equity.

Michigan League for Public Policy

The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on opportunity for all. Its mission is to advance economic security, racial equity, health and well-being for all people in Michigan through policy change. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

Global Detroit

With a focus on immigrants and global talent, Global Detroit develops and implements inclusive strategies to drive the growth, revitalization and broadly shared prosperity of Detroit and Southeast Michigan. By ensuring immigrants are a vital part of the region’s community and economic development strategies, Global Detroit is building a vibrant city and thriving global region with strong neighborhoods, healthy families, competitive companies, successful small businesses, and a rich and diverse cultural life. Founded in 2010, Global Detroit develops and leads programs centered on global talent, entrepreneurship, and neighborhoods with the aim of demonstrating the potential for large-scale impact. Global Detroit also continues to conduct groundbreaking research, drives policy, and serves as a leading advocate for immigrant inclusion as a strategy to build prosperity for everyone in Southeast Michigan.