E.g., 09/28/2023
E.g., 09/28/2023
Preparing the Children of Immigrants for Early Academic Success
July 2013

Preparing the Children of Immigrants for Early Academic Success

Immigrant families in the United States are concentrated at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, and socioeconomic disadvantages are known to undermine success in school. Thus, children from immigrant families should be struggling in the U.S. educational system, but, in reality, they tend to do better academically and behaviorally than their families’ socioeconomic circumstances suggest that they will.

This phenomenon, referred to as an immigrant paradox in education, has been well documented by social scientists—the evidence, however, is largely drawn from high school students. Data on the performance of children entering elementary school are more mixed, often pointing to greater risks among the children of immigrants, especially those with Latin American origins. As with educational performance, children of immigrants appear to be more at risk for health problems during their preschool and elementary school years than during adolescence—with a possible association between early childhood health problems and poorer educational performance.

These results raise concerns about the future trajectories of young children of immigrants, especially during the transition between prekindergarten and elementary school—a period critical to a child’s development and academic preparation. Any disparities in school readiness may carry through the rest of K-12 education, lowering the educational and socioeconomic attainment of the growing number of children from immigrant families.

This report examines three types of educational and health policy interventions that may reduce disparities between the children of U.S.-born parents and their immigrant counterparts:

  1. Expanded access to early childhood education
  2. Policies that promote young children’s physical health
  3. Efforts to forge family-school partnerships.

These interventions, if combined, reflect how early learning patterns emerge from the intersection of multiple developmental processes.

Table of Contents 

I.     Introduction

II.    Patterns of Early Cognitive Development and Academic Functioning among Children of Immigrant Families

III.    Proposals for Mitigating Immigrant Risk

A. Pre-K Enrollment

B. Health

C. Family-School Partnerships

IV.    Conclusions