Generational status, immigrant concentration and academic achievement: comparing first and second-generation immigrants with third-plus generation students

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11 Scopus citations


Background: Immigrants and their children are the fastest-growing demographic group in the United States, and schools are often the first social institution young immigrants engage with on a sustained basis. As such, the academic achievement of immigrant students can be viewed as an indicator of their incorporation and a predictor of educational and employment outcomes in adulthood. In this study, we examined the factors associated with differences in mathematics achievement between first, second, and third-plus generation students in the US. Methods: We analyzed the data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012. Our analytic sample included 3700 15 year-old students attending US public and private schools. We used information on students’ background and school characteristics from the student and school questionnaires. We used multiple linear regression models to predict mathematics achievement. To address the sampling design of PISA and the use of plausible values we fitted the models using the IDB Analyzer. Results: Our analysis shows that the families and schools of second-generation students are more similar to their first-generation than their third-plus generation peers. Once we control for student background characteristics and school contextual factors, the achievement gap between first-generation students and their second and third-plus generation peers disappears. Our results suggest that what we observed as generational differences in achievement are more likely to be gender, racial, and socioeconomic gaps. Conclusions: Our findings imply that student background and school contextual factors counteract some of the disadvantages that first-generation students face in the US. Our results also support existing evidence about the second-generation advantage in academic achievement. Taken together, these findings suggest that mathematics achievement can be addressed by policies and practices that support all students alongside policies and practices that target immigrant students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalLarge-Scale Assessments in Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Academic achievement
  • Immigrant students
  • PISA
  • School context

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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