Are Immigrant Youth Faring Better in U.S. Schools?

Richard A. Fry, Pew Hispanic Center

In spite of the growing numbers and geographic dispersion of foreign-born children, the school outcomes of foreign-born teens improved during the 1990s. Analysis of decennial Census data reveals that fewer immigrant youth dropped out of school and their English language proficiency improved. Some of the improvement is due to compositional change in the foreign-born teen population. Levels of parental education increased over the decade. Poverty among foreign-born adolescents declined. Other youth background characteristics did not change in a favorable direction. Multivariate analysis reveals that there was a large decline in the likelihood of immigrant teens dropping out of school above and beyond the demographic changes over the decade. For example, the likelihood that a Mexican-born teen educated in U.S. schools drops out of school declined by an estimated 43 percent over the 1990s. There is little evidence, however, that U.S. schools have improved in their English language instruction over the decade.

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Presented in Session 142: Immigration and Intergenerational Mobility