Migrating to Opportunities: How Family Migration Motivations Shape Academic Trajectories among Newcomer Immigrant Youth


  • Support for the LISA study came from the National Science Foundation, the W. T. Grant Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Carolin Hagelskamp c/o Carola Suarez-Orozco, Department of Applied Psychology, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, & Human Development, New York University, 246 Greene St, #402, New York, NY 10003 [e-mail: ciah08@gmail.com].


This study describes the relative salience of educational and employment prospects in immigrant parents’ motivations for coming to the United States, and it links these types of parental migration motivations to newcomer immigrant youth's school performance. Data were drawn from the longitudinal immigrant student adaptation study, which includes families from Central America, China, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Mexico. Analyses (N= 256 families) involved quantitative descriptions of parents’ responses to open-ended questions and individual growth curve analysis of adolescents’ grade point average (GPA) trajectories over five consecutive years. Work prospects were more salient than educational opportunities in the migration motivations of this culturally diverse sample of families. Children whose parents more often mentioned schooling as a reason to immigrate had higher GPAs. The salience of work prospects in parents’ migration motivations was associated with a more rapid decline in GPA throughout high school years. Policy implication and suggestions for future research are discussed.