The Impact of Migrant Selectivity on Cognitive Skills, Non-Cognitive Skills and Academic Outcomes in the Second Generation

Per Engzell, Stockholm University

We ask how migrants’ educational selectivity influences academic outcomes among second-generation youth from 110 countries of origin (N=1,856) in present-day Sweden. Drawing on several data sources we construct a measure reflecting the percentile position of each individual parent in the distribution of education within his or her gender and cohort in the country of origin. We then assess the impact of this measure, net of parents’ absolute years of schooling, on 12 child outcomes. When parents’ absolute education is controlled for, selectivity exerts none or even a negative association with children’s cognitive and language skills, whereas positive associations are found for attitudes to education, occupational status aspirations, and transition to academic secondary education. These findings are consistent with the conjecture that educationally selective migration results from selection on socioeconomic resources (rather than ability as often posited), and that a status reproduction motive is the mechanism whereby it influences second-generation assimilation.

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Presented in Session 10: Migration and Families