The Effect of Immigrant Communities on Foreign-Born Student Achievement


  • We are grateful to the Spencer Foundation and the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan for supporting our work. We also thank anonymous reviewers as well as Susan Brown, Lori Diane Hill, Justin McCrary, Heather Rose, and participants at the National Poverty Center Workshop and the annual meetings of the American Education Finance Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the Population Association of America for extremely helpful comments on earlier drafts. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors.


This paper explores the effect of the human capital characteristics of co-ethnic immigrant communities on foreign-born students’ math achievement. We use data on New York City public school foreign-born students from 39 countries merged with census data on the characteristics of the immigrant household heads in the city from each nation of origin and estimate regressions of student achievement on co-ethnic immigrant community characteristics, controlling for student and school attributes. We find that the income and size of the co-ethnic immigrant community has no effect on immigrant student achievement, while the percent of college graduates may have a small positive effect. In addition, children in highly English proficient immigrant communities test slightly lower than children from less proficient communities. The results suggest that there may be some protective factors associated with immigrant community members’ education levels and use of native languages.