Preparing the Children of Immigrants for Early Academic Success

Robert Crosnoe
Date of Publication: 
July, 2013
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

This report begins with a discussion of the  "immigrant paradox in education,"  a phenomenon observed by some researchers in which immigrant children "tend to do better academically and behaviorally than their families socioeconomic circumstances suggest they will."  

Much of this research, the author notes, is based on studies of high school students. Newly available data sets, however, permit an analysis of younger children and reveal a more nuanced picture, where, for example, young children of foreign-born Blacks scored higher on achievement tests than the children of U.S.-born Blacks (confirming the Immigrant paradox), but the children of foreign-born Latino families, and especially Mexican families, scored lower that the children of U.S.-born Latinos. "The bottom line," according to the author, " that the immigrant paradox pattern that is so strong in secondary school is weaker in elementary school, in particular during the years surrounding the transition into formal schooling." The rest of the paper examines three "high impact" policy interventions that are likely to minimize the risks faced by immigrant children. These are: expanded access to early education, promotion of better child health and efforts to establish and maintain family-school partnerships.  As children of immigrants are less likely to be enrolled in pre-school programs than native-born children, less likely to have health insurance, and less likely to have engaged parents, these three interventions will "possibly reduce disparities between the educational outcomes of the children of immigrants and their US-born counterparts."

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Crosnoe, R. (2013). Preparing the Children of Immigrants for Early Academic Success. Migration Policy Institute. Washington: DC. Available at: