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High proportion of immigrant citizens in ND have advanced degrees

FARGO -- Fariz Huseynov, who came to the United States to continue his study of finance in graduate school, landed his first faculty appointment at North Dakota State University.

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Fariz Huseynov is an associate professor of finance at NDSU. He emigrated to the United States from his native Azerbaijan, first attending graduate schools in Indiana and Tennessee before joining the faculty at NDSU in 2009. (Carrie Snyder / The Forum)

FARGO -- Fariz Huseynov, who came to the United States to continue his study of finance in graduate school, landed his first faculty appointment at North Dakota State University.

That was in 2009 during the severe recession. Huseynov, whose graduate studies took him to Indiana and Tennessee, is a native of Azerbaijan in southwestern Asia between Russia and Iran along the Caspian Sea.

Since coming to NDSU, he has earned tenure, married, had a son and bought a house.

"The American dream, we've kind of reached that," said Huseynov, an associate professor of finance who plans to apply for U.S. citizenship.

A recent report by the North Dakota Census Office shows the state has almost 30,000 foreign-born residents, with 10,100 residing in Cass County, according to a 2014 estimate by the Census Bureau.

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Among those who have become naturalized citizens, 76 percent have doctoral degrees, the census report shows.

"That's enormous," Kevin Iverson, manager of the North Dakota Census Office, said of the high proportion of naturalized citizens who have doctoral degrees. "I think we're picking up a lot of smart people."
Non-U.S. born North Dakota residents participate in the labor force at a rate of 68 percent, essentially identical to the general population, Iverson said.

"I think we're getting a pretty great deal," he said of foreign-born North Dakota residents.

Since 2010, North Dakota has gained almost 6,000 international migrants. Foreign-born residents comprised 2.7 percent of the population in North Dakota, compared to 12.9 percent for the U.S., from 2009-13, according to the Census Bureau. The rate for Cass County was 5.4 percent, twice the state average.

"These populations tend to be found more so in metropolitan areas," Iverson said, referring to immigrant pockets in North Dakota and elsewhere.

The foreign-born population is diverse, economically and in other ways, he said.

Although they are three times more likely than the general population to have a graduate or professional degree, they also are more than twice as likely to have less than a high school education, Iverson said.

"They are more likely to show up in both the lowest and highest ranges of education and income," he said.

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Also, most foreign-born residents tend over time to become U.S. citizens, Iverson said. Naturalized citizens, he added, tend to be older, have higher incomes and higher education levels than foreign-born non-citizens.

"This group appears to be living the American dream," Iverson said. "They come here, work hard and get ahead."

It is not possible to track foreign-born residents who came as refugees using census data, he said.

North Dakota's non-U.S. born population is 39 percent white, 31 percent Asian and 21 percent black, according to the North Dakota Census Office report. Of those who came to the U.S. since 2010, almost half are Asians, a figure that is much higher than the U.S. average, which is 25 percent.

In the case of Huseynov, he left his native Azerbaijan for undergraduate studies in neighboring Turkey. He first came to the U.S. in 2004, when he started studying for a master's of business administration degree at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

He had a teaching assistantship as well as a research assistantship, and decided he might like an academic career, so earned a doctoral degree at the University of Memphis.

NDSU offered a good position, with compensation that was "at the market level," Huseynov said.

He visited the campus in November. "It was colder than I expected, but I like the people here," Huseynov said. "This is a good, balanced environment."

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He was pleased to see that the campus had a large contingent of faculty from abroad, and even had a staff member dedicated to helping international faculty.

"People are friendly to international people here," he said. "Fargo and Cass County overall offered a lot."

Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address: pspringer@forumcomm.com
Phone: 701-367-5294
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