Does Selective Migration Matter? Explaining Ethnic Disparities in Educational Attainment among Immigrants’Children1


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    The author gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Ford Foundation and Social Science Research Council. I would like to thank Rebecca Emigh, Vilma Ortiz, Doug Downey, James Ainsworth-Darnell, Vu Pham, Adria Imada, and participants in the UCLA professional writing seminar for their comments and suggestions.


Understanding why some national-origin groups excel in school while others do not is an enduring sociological puzzle. This paper examines whether the degree of immigrants’educational selectivity - that is, how immigrants differ educationally from non-migrants in the home country - influences educational outcomes among groups of immigrants’children. This study uses published international data and U. S. Census and Current Population Survey data on 32 immigrant groups to show that as immigrants’educational selectivity increases, the college attainment of the second generation also increases. Moreover, the more positive selection of Asian immigrants helps explain their second generations’higher college attendance rates as compared to Europeans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Latinos. Thus, the findings suggest that inequalities in relative pre-migration educational attainments among immigrants are often reproduced among the next generation in the United States.