In the Ogden-Clearfield area, immigrants work at low-skilled jobs, such as manufacturing or in the service industry. The same goes for Salt Lake County.
Farther south in Provo, immigrants work in high-skilled jobs.
The three Utah areas were included in a Brookings Institution report released today on the education and skill levels of immigrants in the 100 largest metro areas in the country.
The authors of the report wanted to challenge the conventional wisdom about immigrants' contributions to the American economy.
Matthew Hall is the lead author of the report for the Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program. He works as an assistant professor at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
"We were interested in looking at the distribution of immigrant skills in the United States," Hall said. "Today, there are just as many high-skilled as there are low-skilled immigrants."
Immigrants in the U.S. are found in both the most-educated and least-educated segments of the work force in the country. Hall said the report classifies low-skilled as not having a high school diploma, while high-skilled is having at least a college degree.
With industrial areas such as the Freeport Center and Business Depot Ogden, as well as ski resorts, the Ogden-Clearfield area provides many jobs for low-skilled workers.
In Utah, the population grew by about a half-million people in the past 10 years. A large portion of that growth is immigrants, most of whom are of Mexican descent.
Carmelo Alverdin, an immigrant, has worked as a baker at a Mexican market in Ogden for 15 years. Most of the people he deals with work in construction, hotels or factories.
"That is the main thing I see. For the most part, it is the working class."
Provo, which has a low immigrant population, attracts highly skilled immigrants because of Brigham Young University.
"The difference is probably due to the presence of a major research university," Hall said.
University of Utah economist Pam Perlich said many of these high-skilled immigrants bring with them specialized skills and knowledge.
"There may only be a handful of people that understand the ideas and work that needs to be done," she said.
It is important that people understand the immigrant population is much more diverse than it is perceived to be.
The report recommends: the creation of a standing commission on labor and immigration to provide evidence-based policy advice; greater investments in English language and business training; and the creation of programs to help highly skilled immigrants transfer their skills to U.S. labor markets.
Hall said it is also worth noting that new immigration has all but stopped with the down economy. He applauded such efforts as the Utah Compact and state legislation created to integrate immigrants into the work force.
"Now is the time to reflect how we can use the immigrants we have right now to our advantage," he said, adding that it's important for the state to use the work force it has at its disposal.
Perlich pointed out that, in some places, such as Ogden, the majority of the immigrant population is younger than 18. As these youths age, they will be the leaders of the state and will assume high-skilled jobs.
"The ones that are born here are the ones that become white-collar workers and all that," Alverdin said.