14 SES 05 A, School-related Transitions - Secondary and Beyond (Migrant Students and Families)
Second-generation immigrant children tend to outperform their native counterparts, although they have worse or equal socio-economic background conditions (Feliciano, 2020). This phenomenon is referred to as the ‘immigrant paradox’. A major explanation is the ‘immigrant optimism’ hypothesis (Fernández-Kelly, 2008; Kao & Tienda, 1995; Tjaden & Scharenberg, 2017): Immigrant parents tend to have high, and often unrealistic, educational aspirations for their children. These aspirations are transmitted to their children, who often outperform their native counterparts in terms of educational achievement (Aldous, 2006; Neuenschwander, Vida, Garrett, & Eccles, 2007). Yet, recently, another strand of studies has complemented – and in part questioned – the evidence on the immigrant optimism hypothesis. Those studies show that the high achievement of many second-generation immigrants is substantially explained by the fact that most immigrants are not a random part of the population in their country of origin, but that they are a positively selected group (Feliciano & Lanuza, 2017). This selectivity refers particularly to education, i.e. individuals who emigrate often have higher educational attainment than the average population in their country of origin. This individual-level parental educational selectivity explains a substantive share of their children’s educational attainment, performance and aspirations (Engzell, 2019; Feliciano & Lanuza, 2017; Ichou, 2014). The existing literature on parents’ educational selectivity has analyzed children’s education, but has not assessed its impact beyond children’s school careers. In this study, we broaden the scope and focus on parental educational selectivity and how it relates to children’s educational attainment and, most importantly, professional plans and ambitions with respect to intergenerational social mobility. By analyzing intergenerational social mobility, we shed more light on the mechanisms underlying the so-called family bargain. The family bargain refers to the fact that, often, immigration results into families’ downward social mobility (Crul, Schneider, Keskiner, & Lelie, 2017; Fibbi & Truong, 2015). Yet, parents are willing to accept this as they believe that their children will catch up. We compare second-generation immigrants from different regions of origin to children of the majority group. This allows us to elaborate on region-of-origin-specific heterogeneities in the impact of parental educational selectivity on their children.
In the empirical analysis, we focus on the case of Switzerland, a country characterized by a large proportion of immigrants from many regions of origin. We link data from a one-year cohort of young men and a representative sample of young women to international educational data (Barro & Lee, 2013). The international educational data allows us to identify the degree of educational selectivity for each parent of the respondents in the survey data. We make use of different bivariate and multivariate statistical techniques.
Our results show that all children, i.e. those from the majority group as well as second-generation immigrants, expect to educationally outperform their parents and expect upward intergeneration social mobility. Positive parental educational selectivity relates to children’s higher educational attainment as well as more ambitious job aspirations and more upward intergenerational social mobility expectations. These relationships are heterogeneous and there are important differences across regions of origin. Children from the Balkan, Turkey and Southern European countries tend to have lower job aspirations; at the same time, they have higher ambitions for intergenerational social mobility. Moreover, there are significant gender differences: Girls have higher educational and job ambitions than boys; nevertheless, boys expect more intergenerational mobility.
The findings of this study show that parental educational selectivity is an important factor that needs to be included in analyses of immigrant children’s’ educational careers. Our findings also highlight the varying educational experiences of children from different countries of origin, which requires different support strategies from educational institutions and policymaking.
We use secondary data from the 2016–2017 edition of the Swiss federal survey of adolescents (Swiss Confederation, 2021) that elaborated on young adults life-course trajectories and mobility experiences (FORS, 2020). The data was collected in two parts, both by means of the same paper questionnaire. The first part of the data includes a full one-year age cohort of Swiss men aged 18 to 20, providing data on the full population (N=40,503). This part of the data collection took place in classroom settings during the recruitment procedure for the basic military service, in which all Swiss young men have to participate. This procedure assesses their potential fit for a basic military service (Federal Department of Defence, 2021). The second part of the survey data stems from a representative sample of 2,126 Swiss women of the same age. The data include detailed information on respondents’ and their parents’ migration background, educational and occupational levels, as well as on respondents’ educational and professional plans and aspirations. The data include young adults who were born in Switzerland or have obtained the Swiss nationality by the age of 18. The second-generation immigrants have been educated in Switzerland, while their parents were educated abroad. The cohort-data is linked to international educational data from the Barro-Lee dataset (Barro & Lee, 2013). The Barro-Lee dataset refers to the population living in a country at a specific point in time and allows measuring migrant parents’ educational selectivity at the individual level. Given the information on parents’ country of origin in the survey data, for each parent we merge information on their relative educational position in the educational distribution in the country of origin at the time of emigration to Switzerland. Thereby, we can determine the individual-level educational selectivity of each father and mother. We use multiple imputation with chained equations to impute missing data. This concerns only a few observations: 82% of all respondents have zero missings values and 10% have one missing value on any of the variables used. To analyze the above research questions, we use descriptive statistics and multivariate techniques, including OLS regressions, ordered logit and logit models as well as multinomial logit models. In the analysis, we focus on region-of-origin groups and thereby account for group-level characteristics (such as typical labor market participation or legal constrains). At the same time, we include individual-level heterogeneities in pre-migration characteristics and initial motivations to emigrate.
This study has analyzed how immigrant parents’ educational selectivity, i.e. their position in the educational distribution in the country of origin, affects their children’s educational attainment and job and intergenerational social mobility aspirations. Based on an analysis of a cohort of young men in Switzerland and a comparable representative sample of women, we can draw important conclusions. What the literature often refers to as ‘immigrant optimism’, i.e. the often high and unrealistic educational aspirations of second-generation immigrants, is in part explained by parents’ educational selectivity: Second-generation immigrant children have high aspirations not despite their parents’ low socio-economic status, but due to their parents’ high relative educational attainment in the country of origin. Overall, more positively educationally selected parents can better support their children and transmit educational values and aspirations to their children. Regarding intergenerational social mobility, second-generation immigrants from all regions of origin believe that their professional situation will be better than that of both their parents. This belief is more pronounced for boys, suggesting that boys are driven more strongly by the ‘family bargain of migration’ and want to catch up the occupational downgrading their parents have experienced as a consequence of migration. Furthermore, our results show that parental educational selectivity plays a crucial role not only for children’s educational attainment but also for their professional plans and aspirations. These relationships are heterogeneous for individuals from different regions of origin. Future analyses of educational and professional pathways of second-generation immigrants must consider families’ characteristics in reference to the home country. Considering only host country-related SES-measures (e.g. occupational status) might lead to wrong conclusions on children’s needs and aspirations and misleading policy conclusions might be derived. Finally, educational policies should account for immigrant parents’ educational experiences in the home country and not only their socio-economic characteristics in the host country.
Aldous, J. (2006). Family, Ethnicity, and Immigrant Youths’ Educational Achievements. Journal of Family Issues, 27(12), 1633-1667. doi:10.1177/0192513X06292419 Barro, R. J., & Lee, J. W. (2013). A new data set of educational attainment in the world, 1950–2010. Journal of Development Economics, 104, 184-198. doi:10.1016/j.jdeveco.2012.10.001 Crul, M., Schneider, J., Keskiner, E., & Lelie, F. (2017). The multiplier effect: how the accumulation of cultural and social capital explains steep upward social mobility of children of low-educated immigrants. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 40(2), 321-338. doi:10.1080/01419870.2017.1245431 Engzell, P. (2019). Aspiration Squeeze: The Struggle of Children to Positively Selected Immigrants. Sociology of education, 92(1), 83-103. doi:10.1177/0038040718822573 Federal Department of Defence, C. P. a. S. (2021). Feliciano, C. (2020). Immigrant Selectivity Effects on Health, Labor Market, and Educational Outcomes. Annual Review of Sociology, 46(1), 315-334. doi:10.1146/annurev-soc-121919-054639 Feliciano, C., & Lanuza, Y. R. (2017). An Immigrant Paradox? Contextual Attainment and Intergenerational Educational Mobility. American Sociological Review, 82(1), 211-241. doi:10.1177/0003122416684777 Fernández-Kelly, P. (2008). The Back Pocket Map: Social Class and Cultural Capital as Transferable Assets in the Advancement of Second-Generation Immigrants. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 620(1), 116-137. doi:10.1177/0002716208322580 Fibbi, R., & Truong, J. (2015). Parental involvement and educational success in Kosovar families in Switzerland. Comparative Migration Studies, 3(1), 13. doi:10.1186/s40878-015-0010-y FORS. (2020). Life course and experiences of mobility (ch-x 2016/2017) [Dataset]. Ichou, M. (2014). Who They Were There: Immigrants’ Educational Selectivity and Their Children’s Educational Attainment. European Sociological Review, 30(6), 750-765. doi:10.1093/esr/jcu071 Kao, G., & Tienda, M. (1995). Optimism and Achievement: The Educational Performance of Immigrant Youth. Social Science Quarterly, 76(1), 1-19. Neuenschwander, M. P., Vida, M., Garrett, J. L., & Eccles, J. S. (2007). Parents' expectations and students' achievement in two western nations. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 31(6), 594-602. doi:10.1177/0165025407080589 Swiss Confederation. (2021). Swiss Federal Survey of Adolescents. Retrieved from https://www.chx.ch/ Tjaden, J. D., & Scharenberg, K. (2017). Ethnic choice effects at the transition into upper-secondary education in Switzerland. Acta Sociologica, 60(4), 309-324. doi:10.1177/0001699316679491
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