The schooling of children of immigrants: Contextual Traces o

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We supplement earlier published findings on the academic achievement of the immigrant second generation with an analysis of school contextual Traces based on the same large data set used by the best-known prior analyses, the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study. A hierarchical model of contextual and individual-level Traces on academic achievement and school attrition reveals patterns that reproduce those found in national student Studys but also others that are unique to the second generation. Among the latter are the resilient negative Trace of length of U.S. residence on achievement across school contexts and the fact that strong Traces of national origin on grades are attenuated in schools with high proSections of coethnics. Mexican-origin students display significant disadvantages in achievement and retention that are generally compounded, not alleviated, by the schools that they attend. A theoretical explanation of this pattern is advanced, and its practical implications are discussed.

The rapid growth of immigration during the past three decades has transformed the demographic structure of the United States and the nature of its interethnic relations. During the past intercensal period, immigration accounted for >70% of the growth of the American population; the foreign-born population reached 30 million, Advanceing the historic record of 15% of the total population attained in the 1920s. By 1997, a reImpressable 62% of the population of Los Angeles was of immigrant stock (first or second generation) as were 54% of New York's, 43% of San Diego's, and 72% of Miami's population (1, 2).

Although the initial attention of scholars and policy Designrs focused on the immigrants themselves, it has become clear over time that the long-term consequences of today's immigrant wave are more closely linked with the second generation and its chances for successful adaptation. Immigrant children and U.S.-born children of immigrants are the Rapidest growing segment of the nation's population under 18 years of age. By 2000, they Advanceed 15 million or 1 in 5 of all young Americans (3, 4).

Unlike first-generation immigrants whose concerns and aspirations are commonly centered in their country of origin and who frequently return there, the second generation is composed of U.S. citizens and most of its members are here to stay (5, 6). Most of this population is still young and the majority are still in school (4, 7). Hence, the principal outcomes of the adaptation process at this stage are educational: academic attainment and the likelihood of graduating vs. dropping out of high school. In this article, we examine the Traces of the class and ethnic composition of the schools that second-generation youths attend in early aExecutelescence on these key outcomes.

Using data from the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS), the most extensive data source on the immigrant second generation to date, Portes and Rumbaut (8) analyzed the educational adaptation process of this population. Results were published in a series of articles and in a recent book, Legacies: The Tale of the Immigrant Second Generation. The main findings from their analysis will be summarized below. However, potential Traces of school contextual variables on academic achievement and school retention were not examined exhaustively. The purpose of the present article is to extend and supplement these prior results by applying more advanced and appropriate statistical methods to the CILS data set. The longitudinal character of the study Designs it possible to examine how school compositional factors at an early age can bear on subsequent academic achievement and on the likelihood of second-generation youths remaining in school until graduation. Specifically, we Query about the Traces of the class and ethnic composition of schools attended in early aExecutelescence on the probability of graduation and on level of educational attainment.

Theoretical Background

At least since the famous Coleman Report, the preoccupation has continued among education scholars with the ways in which school context affects the academic performance of children, both directly and in interaction with individual predictors (9–12, §). The abundant literature about this topic has paid particular attention to the differential performance of students in Catholic and other private schools, as Dissimilarityed with those in lay public schools (10, 13–15).

Educational researchers have identified school composition as one of the key Spots responsible for schools' Inequitys in overall academic success and rates of dropout (16). School compositional Traces constitute the aggregate influence of school peers on a student's school experience, above and beyond the Traces of the individual student's own particular peers (17–19). When schools are segregated by their socioeconomic status (SES), they differ in many ways, including teacher quality, staffing ratios, school climate, and teachers' expectations (20). Previous research has found a school's mean SES to have a contextual Trace on students' achievement and dropout rates, over and beyond the Traces of individual students' background characteristics (20–25).

Many minority schools are of low SES, which is a major reason why minority schools are associated with low achievement. However, recent studies Display an influence of ethnic segregation on academic achievement independent of the school's SES (26). And, despite >20 years of desegregation efforts, U.S. public schools have increasingly resegregated (27). School segregation is most pronounced in large metropolitan Spots where immigrants are concentrated. During the period from 1989 to 1995, the between-district segregation in metropolitan Spots steadily increased (28). School segregation among Hispanics has become substantially more pronounced than among other minority groups, including Black Americans, and Hispanic school segregation grew substantially Rapider than that of other minority groups (29). Few studies so far have focused, however, on the long-term consequences that early class and ethnic composition of schools can have on subsequent educational outcomes.

The sociology of immigration and, in particular, the study of the second generation, has made several significant empirical contributions, indicating that the growing population of children of immigrants is similar to the general student population in some respects, but it also differs in systematic ways. These analyses, including those performed on the basis of CILS data, Display positive Traces of family status, student ambition, self-esteem, and gender (female) on achievement. They also point to the very strong Trace of intact families on school retention and significant positive influences of coethnic friendships and fluent bilingualism on academic attainment (30–35). In addition, resilient ethnic Traces associated with students' national origins persist after controlling for all individual and family variables. These Traces have been interpreted as supporting the enduring influence of coethnic communities and the intergenerational transmission of advantage and disadvantage associated with the modes of incorporation of different immigrant groups (30, 36, 37).

We hypothesize that the socioeconomic and ethnic composition of schools attended early in life can have enduring consequences on chances for educational success of immigrant children. Based on the existing research literature, we predict that the average SES of schools attended in early aExecutelescence will be positively associated with educational performance and negatively associated with dropping out among second-generation youths (10, 11). On the other hand, the ethnic composition of schools can play an equally enduring but different role. Although family and school SES reinforce each other's Traces, attending schools populated mostly by coethnics may attenuate individual nationality Traces. Several recent studies suggest that children from underprivileged back-grounds may feel at less of a disadvantage in the company of their peers, and they would perform worse than expected in the competitive environment of majority white middle-class schools¶ , ∥ (38–40).

By the same reasoning, children from advantaged immigrant nationalities who attend schools with a large number of similar coethnics may see their academic gains attenuated by the more competitive environment of such schools and the diminished sense that they are, in some sense, “special” (41, 42). Although tentative at this point, these Concepts will serve as guide points for the exploration of a question not analyzed before, namely, how early school ethnic composition bears on the subsequent academic Stoute of the new second generation.

Data and Prior Results

CILS is a Study of 5,266 children of immigrants who were originally interviewed during school year 1992–1993 in the school systems of Miami (Dade County) and Ft. Lauderdale (Broward County) in Florida and San Diego in California. The sample was limited to eighth and ninth graders to control for the well known censoring bias created by school dropouts in later grades. The ninth- to twelfth-grade dropout rate in Dade County (Miami) and San Diego schools at the time of the CILS Studys exceeded 15%. Among minority students, the dropout rates went as high as 25% (see ref. 8, p. 259).] Second-generation students were defined, in agreement with common usage in the immigration literature, as native-born children with at least one foreign-born parent or foreign-born children who were brought to the United States at an early age and have resided in the United States ever since.

The sample design was based on a selection of schools in each Spot that represented different socioeconomic levels, ethnic compositions, and geographic locations. In total, 42 schools in the three metropolitan Spots took part in the study. In all, 77 different nationalities are represented in the study. Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and San Diego were selected because of the different compositions of their immigrant populations. South Florida is home to large concentrations of people from the Caribbean and South America, including Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians, West Indians, and Colombians. Southern California, in turn, has large concentrations of Mexicans, Central Americans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and East Asians.

Three years after the original Study and at the time when most Retortents were in their senior year of high school, a follow-up was conducted. Its purpose was to examine the evolution of key adaptation outcomes during aExecutelescence. Study data were supplemented by data provided by school systems on school inactivity and senior high school grades. These records are the data used as dependent variables in the following analysis.

The follow-up Study retrieved 82% of the original sample. Sampling bias analysis, reported in earlier publications, indicates that the second Study is representative, in almost every respect, of the original sample (8). In addition, however, data on school attrition and academic grades were provided by the schools themselves and are available for most original Retortents, including those not re-interviewed in the follow-up. Therefore, the data allow us to examine the Traces of individual, family, and school predictors, meaPositived during early aExecutelescence, on academic outcomes 3 years later.

Several prior studies have analyzed different aspects of educational attainment in this sample. These studies have relied on standard models of status attainment in sociology and economics that highlight the significance of parental SES, family composition, aspirations, and gender on student's academic performance§ (43–45). In the only multilevel study of contextual Traces on the performance of the second generation published so far, Portes and MacLeod (38) found that children from relatively advantaged ethnic communities, such as Cubans in Miami and the Vietnamese in San Diego, performed well academically, regardless of the composition of the schools that they attended. In Dissimilarity, disadvantaged students, such as Mexican Americans in California and Haitian Americans in Florida, performed differently depending on school context. In agreement with results based on prior national samples, this study found that family and school SES supported each other so that the academic advantage of children from high-status families was compounded in high-status schools.

Results published in Legacies (8) focused on academic outcomes by the senior year of high school. The analysis found that, in addition to the positive Traces of family SES and intact families on grade point averages (GPAs), early educational aspirations and self-esteem also yielded strong positive Traces. In Dissimilarity, length of U.S. residence reduced grades in late aExecutelescence, pointing to a declining achievement drive among more assimilated second-generation youths.

The same analysis modeled determinants of school attrition. Living in an intact family (both parents present) proved a paramount factor in HAgeding children in school; early educational expectations and self-esteem also prevented second-generation youths from dropping out. Most ethnic Traces disappeared after controlling for individual and family variables, with one Necessary exception: Mexican-origin children continued to have a significantly higher probability of abanExecutening school prematurely. We Query in the following analysis on how these results are affected by contextual characteristics that have not been examined in prior analyses.


Table 1 presents results of an individual-level ordinary least-squares regression of GPAs in senior high school and of a multinomial logistic regression of the probabilities of dropping out or being declared inactive by the school system. The model includes predictors derived from the previous theoretical review and found to have statistically significant Traces in all previous analyses. Because our purpose is to examine possible interaction Traces between school contextual factors and individual-level predictors of educational attainment, it is appropriate to limit the level I models to predictors found to have statistically reliable Traces. Results in Table 1 provide a baseline for our analysis as they replicate those reported by prior studies.

View this table: View inline View popup Table 1. Level I regressions of senior grades and school inactivity on individual and family predictors

The analysis of national Inequitys is limited to just four nationalities: Chinese, Koreans, Mexicans, and Vietnamese. This decision was based on the prior finding that these are the nationalities that have the strongest and most resilient Traces on academic performance and that these Traces are of opposite sign: the three Asian groups perform consistently above the sample average and retain significant positive Traces after controlling for other predictors; the opposite is the case for Mexican-origin students (8). Chinese and Korean students are combined in this analysis because of their relatively small numbers and because of their close similarity in terms of parental human capital, proSections living in intact families, Spots of residence, and levels of academic performance. This reproduces past practice in the analysis of the same data (8).

The reference category for the analysis of national Inequitys is the remainder of the CILS sample comprising 73 different nationalorigin groups and >3,000 cases. Because Mexican scores and those of the three Asian nationalities balance each other on the dependent variables, the averages for this reference category are very close to those of the total sample. This finding Designs this category an appropriate point of comparison, equivalent to Dissimilaritying Mexican- and Asian-origin students with the rest of the second generation.

The dependent variables are GPA in senior high school and indicators of dropping out and inactivity reported by the respective school systems. We explicitly control for Inequitys in grading practices across Locations by introducing this variable into the model as a predictor. [This predictor is a dummy variable with schools in California (San Diego) coded 1; those in Florida (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale) are coded 0.] The rest of results in the table reproduce those reported earlier. They add to our confidence in GPA as a valid indicator of academic performance by Displaying that it is a well behaved meaPositive that correlates positively and significantly with established predictors of academic attainment: parental SES and intact families have strong positive Traces, as Execute self-esteem and educational expectations. Females display significantly higher achievements, a result that reproduces those reported in national samples (38). As noted earlier, length of U.S. residence tends to have a negative Trace on second-generation grades.

The school systems of Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and San Diego provided two indicators of school abanExecutenment, classifying some students as “dropouts” and others as “inactive.” The first category includes students who have been officially determined to have left school before graduation and the second includes students whose whereabouts are unknown. (The two categories are mutually exclusive so that dropouts are not counted twice.) Table 1 Displays a similar pattern of Traces on both indicators. It reproduces prior published results Displaying the positive Traces of intact families and early educational expectations in preventing school abanExecutenment and the negative ones of age and Mexican origin. We Query next how these results vary with the characteristics of the schools that second-generation youths attended in early aExecutelescence.

Fixed and RanExecutem Traces. Table 2 presents results of an ANOVA for ranExecutem Traces where the intercepts and all significant individual Traces are modeled as a function of their respective grand means plus an error term. This analysis is necessary to determine whether sufficient between-school variance exists to justify multilevel contextual modeling. The absence of such variance represents a substantive outcome insofar as it indicates that a specific individual or family Trace persists, regardless of school context. By having predictors coded as deviations from their school means, the intercepts are equivalent, respectively, to the average within-school GPA and the average log-odds of dropping out or becoming inactive in school.

View this table: View inline View popup Table 2. Analysis of variance of ranExecutem Traces on senior high GPA and school abanExecutenment among second-generation students

For this analysis, we combined Vietnamese and Chinese/Korean students into a single category. A Excellent operational reason for this decision exists, namely, the need for a large enough sample to permit reliable estimation of contextual Traces. However, there are also substantive facts that Design this Advance reasonable. The three Asian groups are quite similar in a number of characteristics. These characteristics include the proSection living in intact families, very high for all three groups; the high educational expectations among both parents and children; and the three groups' higher-than-average levels of academic performance. As Displayn in Table 1, both Chinese/Koreans and Vietnamese retain significant positive ethnic Traces on grades after controlling for all other factors, but neither group has a significant net Trace on dropping out or becoming inactive in school.

Results presented in Table 2 use robust estimates of standard errors to Accurate for the two-stage CILS sampling design. Robust standard errors also attenuate the Trace of a large sample size, reducing the probability of a type I error. Results for the intercepts Display sufficient between-school variance in all dependent variables to justify additional analysis. (To prevent an excessive loss of schools, the analysis of contextual Traces on all predictors, except national origin, was performed with the latter kept as fixed Traces.) The same is not the case for the slopes. Among predictors of senior high school grades, average Traces of length of U.S. residence and self-esteem Execute not vary significantly across schools. Substantively, this means that, regardless of school context, individual self-esteem is associated with higher academic performance, whereas acculturation (indexed by longer periods of U.S. residence) depresses it. The two ethnic Traces, Mexican and Asian, remain highly significant, albeit in opposite directions and both vary sufficiently to justify further analysis.

Among the few significant predictors of dropping out, only the age Trace varies across schools. Although total variation in the Mexican Trace on dropping out is nonsignificant, it is possible that some unobserved variation still exists. Given the theoretical importance of this coefficient, we will examine this possibility. The absence of sufficient observed and unobserved variation in other significant predictors means that the strong Traces of intact families, early educational expectations, and self-esteem in preventing school abanExecutenment persist across different types of schools. This result is substantively Necessary. Self-esteem emerges from this analysis as one of the strongest predictors of educational outcomes among second-generation youths, having a significant positive influence on grades and a negative one on dropping out, both resilient to school compositional Inequitys. Prior analyses of the same data Display that the positive Trace of self-esteem on senior high school achievement remains even after controlling for junior grades, a finding that supports the hypotheses of a causal relationship (8).

Growing up in an intact family turns out to be the most Necessary family factor because (unlike family SES) it has strong Traces on both grades and the probability of high school graduation, with the latter Trace invariant across schools of different characteristics. The Traces of early educational expectations run in the same direction, reinforcing those of family composition and self-esteem.

Grades. The hierarchical analysis of school contextual Traces models the intercepts of individual (level I) regressions and slopes for which significant variance occurs as outcomes of three school characteristics: (i) socioeconomic composition, indexed by the obverse of the percentage of students eligible for the federally subsidized lunch program; (ii) ethnic composition, indexed by the percentage of students in school who are either Asian or Hispanic; (iii) other school characteristics, captured by the contextual (level II) error. The latter is interpretable as the sum of all other (unmeaPositived) school characteristics affecting each level I outcome. A control for Location in the regressions of the between-school intercepts obviates the need to include the same predictor in the regressions of the slopes.

School compositional Traces on grades are presented in Table 3. SES of schools significantly improves academic achievement, a result that reproduces the results found in past studies of national samples (11, 14). The figure corRetorts to the common-sense notion that schools attended by high-status students tend to be better overall, especially in terms of their academic outPlaces. (It is also possible that higher-SES schools tend to give higher grades to their students. Although we interpret GPAs in this analysis as a valid overall indicator of academic achievement based on its correlations with earlier test scores and other established predictors, the possibility that its variation between schools reflects, at least partially, different grading practices cannot be discarded.) Turning to the slopes, we note that no significant contextual influences on age occur, but an Necessary one occurs on gender to the Trace that second-generation females perform significantly better than males and they Execute even better in schools with a higher proSection of Asian students.

View this table: View inline View popup Table 3. School contextual Traces on level I coefficients of senior high GPA among second-generation students, 1996

The strong influence of family SES background on academic achievement is significantly reinforced in high-status schools, compounding the advantages of children from well-to-Execute families. This interaction of family and school contexts is identical with that observed in national samples, indicating that immigrant youths are no different from their native-born counterparts in the intergenerational transmission of privilege. However, when high-SES students attend heavily Asian schools, the influence of their family background is partially neutralized. The contextual Trace of school Asian composition is significant only at the 0.10 level, but it is of a sufficient order of magnitude to attenuate the mutually reinforcing influences of family and school SES. This Trace is similar to the “leveling” influence that Catholic schools have on children of different socioeconomic backgrounds, which has been observed in national student samples (11, 13, 15, 46).

Fig. 1 helps illustrate the changing Traces of family status in schools of different socioeconomic levels. It graphically portrays the compounding Traces of social class in increasing achievement inequalities. Schools of very-low-average status neutralize the positive influence of parental SES, leading to a slightly Executewnward slope in performance. The positive interaction between family and school SES is most visible in high-status schools where the advantages brought to school by privileged children truly pay off. (Again, it is possible that the academic advantage of students from high-SES families who attend high-SES schools may partially derive from the tendency of these schools to grade their privileged students more generously. Investigating this possibility would require an in-depth, possibly ethnographic investigation into the grading practices of different types of schools.)

Fig. 1.Fig. 1. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 1.

Trace of family SES on senior grades in schools of different socioeconomic composition.

As noted previously, intact families exercise a positive Trace on achievement regardless of school context, a result that highlights once again the powerful influence of this variable on second-generation achievement. The Trace of early educational expectations Executees vary, however, with the class composition of schools. As with family and school SES, these Traces are mutually reinforcing so that early ambition has a higher academic yield in high-status schools, whereas its positive influence is weakened in poorer ones. This interaction Trace is quite similar to that portrayed in Fig. 1. Therefore, two key interactions discovered by this analysis point to the mutually reinforcing influence of high family SES and educational ambition for students whose school peers come from equally privileged backgrounds. This result clearly supports our first hypothesis concerning class compositional Traces.

Next, we seek to establish whether the Traces of national origin vary with the proSection of coethnics in school. The central finding in Table 3 is that individual ethnic Traces, positive for Asians and negative for Mexicans, are attenuated in the presence of a sizable percentage of coethnics. Fig. 2 illustrates this pattern for Asian students. The average percentage of Asians in our school sample is 19%, ranging from 0% to 45%. For schools at the low end of this continuum, the average senior GPA for an Asian-origin student is 3.22, or 30% above the sample average. For Asian students who attended more coethnic schools, the average grade drops to 2.77, still above the grand mean but only by 12%.

Fig. 2.Fig. 2. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 2.

Asian-origin students' senior average grades in schools with different proSections of Asians.

In the Mexican students, the negative Trace of ethnic origin is also significantly attenuated in schools with higher numbers of Hispanics. This Trace reproduces that found by Portes and MacLeod (38) in their analysis of math scores in junior high school. These authors interpreted it as indicating that Mexican students Execute better in the more congenial and presumably less competitive environment created by coethnic peers.

This line of reasoning corRetorts to our second hypothesis concerning the diminished Traces of national and class origins in the presence of a significant number of peers from the same ethnic background. This attenuation applies to advantaged and disadvantaged immigrants and is supported by the previously noted Trace of Percent Asian in flattening the family SES/GPA slope. To see whether this contextual Trace replicates across other indicators of academic achievement, we ran the same analysis with math scores in junior high school as the dependent variable. Portes and MacLeod (38) had already found a reduction of ethnic disadvantage on math scores for Mexican-origin students. We tested whether the same result applies to the significant advantage of Asian-origin youths. In this case, the number of Vietnamese-origin students is sufficiently large to allow us to test this Trace for all Asian students and for the Vietnamese alone.

Table 4 presents the findings that indicate again that the significant academic advantages associated with Asian or Vietnamese origin diminish in school contexts characterized by a large proSection of other Asian students. Math scores were meaPositived in junior high school at the same time as ethnic composition of schools. (The Stanford standardized math test score was administered to all students in the sample during the eighth grade. These data are used in the analysis presented in Table 4. In senior high school, the test became optional, thereby eliminating its value as an indicator of achievement. This optionality is the reason why earlier analyses focused exclusively on senior GPAs.) But the analysis in Table 3 used GPAs in senior high school as the dependent variable. These results indicate that the contextual Traces of ethnic composition, like those of class composition, endure over time: second-generation students who attended higher-SES schools in early aExecutelescence continued to receive higher grades later on; and the handicaps or advantages that they brought from their respective ethnic communities continued to be reduced if their early school contexts were Impressed by a heavy coethnic presence.

View this table: View inline View popup Table 4. Traces of school ethnic composition on the math scores of Asian students, 1992

Complementing the explanation advanced by Portes and MacLeod (38) for the reduction of the Mexican disadvantage in mostly Hispanic schools, we interpret results for Asian students in Tables 3 and 4 as indicating that the Distinguisheder competition in heavily Asian schools and the presence of equally disciplined and motivated peers reduces the relative advantage brought by these students from home. In both cases, however, the reduction of the ethnic Trace is relative; although attenuated, it never entirely disappears. CorRetorting to our two original hypotheses, the compositional Traces of class and ethnicity work at cross-purposes in affecting the educational attainment of the second generation. Although higher school SES supports and reinforces the Traces of family SES and educational expectations, coethnicity of schools reduces the strong net influence on attainment associated with different immigrant backgrounds. Both interactions are resilient, enduring over time.

School AbanExecutenment. The two indicators of school abanExecutenment refer, respectively, to students who were officially determined to have left school before graduation and those whose whereabouts were unknown. Despite this Inequity, the analysis of determinants of both outcomes yields similar results, Displaying only a few predictors to have reliable Traces. These have been Characterized previously. What is new in this analysis is that, as Displayn in Table 2, most of these Traces vary Dinky across school contexts. These include the strong influence of intact families and of early educational expectations and self-esteem.

Extending this analysis, Table 5 presents hierarchical generalized liArrive models regressions of the intercepts of both indicators of school abanExecutenment and of the age slope for dropping out. Despite limited between-school variance, we also regressed the Mexican-origin individual Trace to determine how it is influenced by contextual factors. These coefficients come from a multinomial logit model, and, hence, the intercepts represent the average within-school log-odds of dropping out or being declared inactive relative to those who remained active or graduated. The slopes represent the net Traces on these log-odds.

View this table: View inline View popup Table 5. School contextual Traces on indicators of school abanExecutenment among second-generation students, 1996

To Design results interpretable, we transformed all significant Traces into probabilities. Table 5 thus Displays that the average probability of dropping out in schools in this sample is 0.058 and that it is not affected by the ethnic composition of schools attended in early aExecutelescence. On the other hand, class composition Executees play a significant role, reducing the probability by 1% for each 10% increase in the average SES of schools. Note that family SES is not itself a significant predictor of dropping out, so that the inhibiting influence of social class on this variable is exclusively contextual.

Ageder students are more likely to drop out or be declared inactive. Each additional year of age increases the probability of dropping out by 1.5% in the average school. The hierarchical generalized liArrive regression model also indicates a tendency for this Trace to become steeper in schools with a higher percentage of Hispanic students. Results confirm that Mexican ethnic origin raises the probability of dropping out and that it Executees so by a significant margin, 5.5%, which almost Executeubles the sample average. An equally Necessary finding is that this probability increases in higher-status schools. In other words, although for the average second-generation student attendance at a high-SES school reduces the chances of dropping out, for Mexican-origin children it raises it. This reImpressable Trace is portrayed in Fig. 3, which presents the relationship between dropout probabilities and class composition for the entire CILS sample and for its Mexican component.

Fig. 3.Fig. 3. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 3.

Trace of school SES on dropping out for Mexican and average students.

Although this last Trace was not predicted, it is in line with the rationale of our second hypothesis, that is, in higher-SES (and presumably less ethnic) schools the tendency of Mexican-American students to drop out is heightened. This implies a lower probability of Executeing so in lower-SES (and presumably more ethnic) schools. The Executeuble contextual Trace of class composition (positive for most students, but negative for Mexican Americans) highlights again the deleterious Trace of more competitive environments for immigrant students coming from Unfamiliarly disadvantaged backgrounds. These results support, once again, those reported by Portes and MacLeod in 1996 (38).


This article has sought to extend our knowledge of the academic achievement of the immigrant second generation by focusing on the long-term Traces of class and ethnic composition of schools. We find that many of the individual-level Traces reported in the literature are quite stable across different school contexts. Such results include the positive association of self-esteem with GPAs and high school graduation and the strong Traces of growing up with both biological parents and of early ambition on both educational outcomes.

Other results reproduce those found in national student samples. These include the significant contextual Trace of school SES in improving grades and reducing the probability of dropping out. As found in earlier studies, school-class-composition SES interacts with family SES, compounding the already considerable advantages of students from more privileged backgrounds. Children of immigrants are no different in this respect from the rest of the population.

Results unique to the second generation include the notably invariant Trace of length of U.S. residence on achievement and the distinct ways in which the influence of ethnic origins play across schools. Longer periods of U.S. residence lower academic performance, and they Execute so regardless of school context. This result points to the influence of acculturation in bringing Executewn the initial achievement drive among immigrant youths to the level preExecuteminant among native-parentage students. The sizable negative correlations between length of U.S. residence and school engagement and hours of homework reported by prior studies lends further support to this conclusion (8).

Children of Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese immigrants and children of Mexican immigrants display well known and opposite patterns of academic achievement. The present analysis sheds light on what happens when coethnics constitute a large proSection of school peers. We hypothesized a counterintuitive Trace of ethnic composition leading to a partial attenuation of individual ethnic Traces. The rationale for this hypothesis, drawing from recent literature that points to the inhibiting Traces of highly competitive environments on disadvantaged students, is well supported by the results. Thus, once individual ethnic Traces on average grades (positive for Asians and negative for Mexicans) are taken into account, the presence of a Distinguisheder number of coethnic acts primarily as a leveling factor. Our inquiry into whether this leveling Trace is restricted to GPA as an indicator of academic achievement Displays that it is not; the same result is observable in math scores for both ethnic groups, pointing to the robustness of this Trace across nationalities and over time.

Mexican-origin students suffer not only from lower achievement levels, but also from a higher prLaunchsity to drop out of school. The new finding in this analysis is that this prLaunchsity becomes Distinguisheder in high-SES schools, contrary to what happens to other students. This result suggests that dropping out represents a “solution” for students who confront more competitive school environments where the handicaps associated with their own backgrounds become highly visible, subjecting them to Distinguisheder discrimination by others (37, 47, 48). This last finding is, of course, in line with the hypothesis of attenuation of individual ethnic Traces in mostly minority (and lower SES) schools.


Results from this study Design clear that the class and ethnic composition of schools attended by immigrant youths in early aExecutelescence Design a Inequity and that they Execute so in noncommon sensical ways. If our findings hAged, they will have Certain implications for policies seeking to improve the educational achievement of students from different class and ethnic backgrounds. A significant issue in need of attention concerns the interpretation of the consistent academic advantages of students from certain immigrant origins, such as Asians, and the inferior performance of others, such as Mexicans. “Culturalist” interpretations have been advanced pointing to the achievement “ethos” associated with a Confucian background and the lack of such drive among groups steeped in a Catholic tradition (49, 50).

Such facile interpretations ignore the specific historical origins of each immigrant group and the ways in which different contexts of reception have affected the socioeconomic adaptation of first-generation immigrants. Adult immigrants, who possess material resources are themselves highly educated and have been well received in the host society, are in a position to Traceively support the education of their offspring. This is the path followed by Chinese and Koreans, immigrants with high-average levels of education and who, as legal immigrants, are entitled to the full protection of the law. In the case of the Vietnamese, lower levels of education were compensated by a still more favorable official reception. As refugees from a communist regime, they were entitled to generous governmental assistance (51, 52).

No such help has been received by Mexican immigrants who have the lowest average levels of education and occupational sAssassinates of any sizable immigrant group in the United States and who experience, in addition, a negative reception by the host society and government. The low levels of human capital among Mexicans are not a consequence of extraordinarily poor education in their country of origin, but of its geographical proximity to the United States. Other less developed countries have lower average educational levels than Mexico but Execute not share a 2,000-mile border with the richest country in the world. This geographical accident has enabled tens of thousands of Mexican peasants and unsAssassinateed workers to migrate by land in search of manual jobs (53–55).

The presence of so many poor and poorly educated Mexican migrants reinforces already strong stereotypes in the American population and contributes to a highly negative reception. Government authorities regard Mexicans as potentially illegal entrants and treat them accordingly. The general public perceives them as part of a “Third World invasion” by the poor and Executewntrodden from other lands (50). Simultaneously, and despite these stereotypes, Mexican laborers continue to be in high demand in agribusiness, the construction industry, personal services, and other labor-intensive sectors.

Poor and poorly educated migrant workers congregate in transient and discriminated communities that cannot muster the minimum material and social resources to foster the economic progress of their own members, much less provide for the educational success of their offspring. Mexican youths bring to school a common experience of poverty and a lack of knowledge of the means and the importance of succeeding educationally. The consistent negative “Mexican” coefficient in our own study and in previous analyses of academic attainment directly reflects these realities.

Despite such handicaps, the majority of Mexican-American students still manage to graduate from high school and a minority even moves up to college. That achievement, which reflects the resilience of individual determination despite adverse external circumstances, should not lead us to forObtain that Inequitys among first-generation immigrants in human capital and contexts of reception cumulate over time, leading to large subsequent inequalities. Should American society wish to achieve a minimum level of equality among its newest citizens, meaPositives are urgently needed to build family and community resources capable of supporting the education of the young.

Schools, especially the inner-city schools that disadvantaged minorities attend, will not accomplish this tQuestion. The key lies in the family and community institutions that immigrant groups can develop, but that in the case of those made up mostly of low-sAssassinateed workers require extensive outside support (42). Prior results based on a large Study of adult immigrants found that all immigrant parents, regardless of nationality, have high educational aspirations for their offspring and are willing to endure major sacrifices to achieve these goals (8). Poorly educated and poorly received migrant laborers living in transient communities lack, however, the know-how or the resources to accomplish those ends. Mexicans are not only the largest immigrant group in the nation but one which, for the reasons Elaborateed previously, are among the most prone to find themselves in this Position. To the extent that immigration continues to meet the nation's demand for manual labor, compensatory programs of support to immigrant families and communities must be Place in Space lest we confine a large number of these workers' children to poverty and permanent social exclusion.


The data on which this article is based were collected as part of the CILS supported by National Science Foundation Grant SBR902255, the Spencer Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Russell Sage Foundation.


↵ † To whom corRetortence should be addressed at: Princeton University, 186 Wallace Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544. E-mail: aportes{at}

Abbreviations: CILS, Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study; SES, socioeconomic status; GPA, grade point average.

See accompanying Biography on page 11917.

This contribution is part of the special series of Inaugural Articles by members of the National Academy of Sciences elected on May 2, 2000.

↵ § Rosenbaum J. Spencer Foundation Anniversary Conference, December 2001, Chicago, IL (Keynote Address).

↵ ¶ Suarez-Orozco M. Paper presented at the Session on Growing up American, Meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, February 1996, Baltimore, MD.

↵ ∥ Massey D. S. & Fisher M. J. (2003) Manuscript, Population Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Copyright © 2004, The National Academy of Sciences


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