The roots of ambition: Explaining the immigrant advantage in educational aspirations and choices in Western Europe

  • In most Western European countries, the children of immigrants generally have a lower educational performance than children of native origin. Yet controlling for performance, they tend to make more ambitious educational choices. While the first phenomenon is largely explained by the disadvantaged socioeconomic situation of most immigrant families, the reasons for the second phenomenon remain unclear. In this doctoral dissertation, I explore some of the mechanisms that could account for the high educational ambitions of the children of immigrants in Western Europe. The dissertation comprises an introductory chapter followed by three empirical chapters. Chapter 2 focuses on the effects of cross-nativity parentage on the likelihood of enrolling in academic upper secondary school in England, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. Transnational children (those with a first-generation and a second-generation immigrant parent) display the high educational ambition of children with two immigrant parents in most regards. In contrast, mixed children (those with a first-generation immigrant parent and a native-origin parent) closely resemble children with two native parents. In chapter 3, I examine the relationship between children’s sources of information on future education and their realistic educational aspirations. I analyze how this relationship differs between natives and the children of immigrants in England and Sweden. The results indicate that for natives in both countries, and for the children of immigrants in England, information is positively related to realistic educational aspirations. However, information does not seem to affect the aspirations of the children of immigrants in Sweden and, for foreign-born children who immigrated before age 6, the relationship seems to be negative. Finally, in chapter 4, I explore ethnic differences in intergenerational educational mobility in Germany, focusing on the comparison between native-origin youth, Turkish-origin youth and the children of native German immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. I find that immigrant-origin youth are more likely to be upwardly mobile in terms of educational attainment, and that they are less affected by their parents’ educational attainment than natives. Moreover, I find a moderating role of age of immigration. I discuss possible explanations for my findings, including contextual differences in the substantive meaning of educational attainment.

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Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Author(s):Gabriel Tarriba Martínez López
Advisor:Michaela Kreyenfeld, Frank Kalter, Claudia Diehl, Johannes Giesecke
Hertie Collections (Serial Number):Dissertations submitted to the Hertie School (04/2021)
Publication year:2021
Publishing Institution:Hertie School
Granting Institution:Hertie School
Thesis date:2021/03/05
Number pages:155
Release Date:2021/03/12
Licence of document (German):Creative Commons - CC BY - 4.0 International
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