The Comparison Does Not Reflect the Difference of Interest
As noted in yesterday's post, US Census data do not permit analysts to distinguish US higher education degrees from foreign degrees. Consequently, it is not possible to use these data to compare immigrant lawyers who’ve earned US law degrees to immigrant lawyers who have not earned a US law degree. Thus, in comparing the incomes of immigrants in legal occupations who earned BAs (anywhere) and are working in legal jobs in the US with immigrants who reported higher degrees (earned anywhere) and are working in legal jobs in the US, the analysis may be more descriptive of the differences between immigrant lawyers and immigrant non-lawyers working in legal occupations. What is described as an income boost from an LLM degree (relative to a bachelor’s degree) is perhaps more likely to be an income boost from being a lawyer (relative to other jobs in this group that are commonly filled by non-lawyers without law degrees). No one should be surprised to learn that immigrant lawyers have higher incomes than immigrant non-lawyers working in legal occupations, regardless of when they moved to the US.
While the scope of Simkovic’s analysis surely includes some LLM graduates, it also undoubtedly includes many people who were never international students in any field, much less international LLM students. Consequently, it does not paint a picture of the international LLM population, but rather of a more diffuse and undefined population.
In the end, this effort to fill the void of representative data on the population of LLM graduates only underscores the persistence of that void. In order to learn about the value of the LLM for international students, research on that very population is necessary. Our hope is that this response will spur investment in qualitative and quantitative research specifically designed to target this important population, as well as the larger group of graduates (international and domestic) of US law schools.