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Academic Achievement of Legal Immigrants’ Children: The Roles of Parents’ Pre- and Postmigration Characteristics in Origin-Group Differences


  • We would like to thank Puiwa Lei for her advice on equating methods, and Don Gensimore for computational assistance. Support services were provided by the Population Research Institute, Pennsylvania State University, under an infrastructure grant from NICHD. Travel support from the Chinese University is gratefully acknowledged.

concerning this article should be addressed to Suet-ling Pong, Department of Education Policy Studies, Penn State University, 310G Rackley Building, PA 16802. Electronic mail may be sent to


Using data from the New Immigrant Survey, a study based on a nationally representative sample of legal immigrants, the present study extends prior research on the academic outcomes of immigrants’ children by examining the roles of pre- and postmigration parental characteristics and the home environment. An analysis of 2,147 children aged 6–12 shows that parents’ premigration education is more strongly associated with children’s academic achievement than any other pre- or postmigration attribute. Premigration parental attributes account for the test score disadvantage of Mexican-origin children of legal immigrants, relative to their non-Latino counterparts. The findings reveal continuities and discontinuities in parental socioeconomic status and demonstrate that what parents bring to the United States and their experiences after arrival influence children’s academic achievement.