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In a Challenge to Popular Belief, Study Finds Children of Immigrants Underperform Compared to Parents

In a Challenge to Popular Belief, Study Finds Children of Immigrants Underperform Compared to Parents

An interesting new working paper from researchers Umut Ozek and David Figlio has found through data analysis that despite the popular belief that children of immigrants outperform their first generation parents, the opposite is actually the case even though succeeding generations come from stability and have better English skills.

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the researchers found "[A] general pattern of deteriorating educational outcomes across successive immigrant generations. In particular, we find that first generation immigrants – beyond a transition period – perform better in reading and math tests than do second generation immigrants, and second generation immigrants perform better than third generation immigrants.”

"For example, eighth grade reading scores drop from the 75th percentile for early arriving first-generation Asian students to the 64th percentile for the third generation and they go from the 80th to the 65th percentile in math. The decline across Hispanic generations is less pronounced, but the test scores are much lower, dropping under the 50th percentile in reading and just at the 50th percentile for math,” the Center for Immigration Studies explains.

When accounting for variables that are commonly thought to affect academic performance like English speaking skills, income levels and family stability, the researchers found that none of them have an affect on the trend of second and third generation individuals performing worse than their parents.

"Their analysis,” the CIS says, "suggests that this educational decline is not attributed to the factors that are usually blamed: poverty, poor schools, limited English proficiency, and family instability.”

While the researchers do not speculate as to why this trend exists, the Center of Immigration studies suggests that the segregation that occurs between students born from immigrants and the general student population is to blame.

"It has been shown that such segregation is harmful to academic success. Perhaps its effect is felt more deeply by second- and third generation students who did not choose to come to the United States and are no longer just happy to be here,” CIS says.

"The relative improvement that their parents or grandparents achieved was not enough to keep them from being alienated. But many more will remain alienated as long as the federal program of mass immigration continues.”

Read the full article.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

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