Chris Brooks, Sophie Danish, Alexander Nichols, Osama Syed
Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Chris Marsicano
Our paper investigates how first-generation achievement gaps between immigrant and domestic students changes over time, in different countries. We arrived at this topic through an interest in immigration as a relevant political topic in many western countries and the lack of comparative work that measured how adept a country is at reducing the academic achievement gaps of first-generation immigrants.
The current literature finds that immigrant achievement gaps shrink in each subsequent generation, and that the education level of the child’s parent is a strong indicator of a second or third generation immigrant’s academic success. In this study we aim to identify the countries that make the biggest reduction in immigrant scores for the first generation, as we believe that these immigrants a higher quality education. While our paper is focused on identifying specific countries that close the gap well for first generation students, we hope that subsequent research can investigate the specific policies present in effective counties that are transferable to less effective countries. We expect that this would pay dividends across future generations and help to assimilate immigrants into their new nation and economy by performing at the same level academically as their domestic peers
Our two specific research questions are: (1) What are the achievement gaps between immigrants and domestic students in different countries? (2) Do these gaps change over time, and if so, in what ways? To answer these questions, we looked at mathematics test data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). We used data from every country that recorded whether the test taker was born in the country that they were taking the test in, and where this answer was recorded in both the 4th grade initial test and the 8th grade follow up test. Using this 4th and eight grade data, we were able to establish two ‘cohorts’, 1995 4th graders and 1999 8th graders, and 2003 4th graders and 2007 8th graders. Data was available for seven countries: Australia, England, Hong Kong, Hungary, Singapore, Slovenia, and the United States. Our analysis reveals that these the achievement gap between first generation immigrants and domestic students does change over time, and that these changes are different in each country. States like Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore have low initial gaps, likely because of their skills quota immigration policies. The other countries displayed large initial gaps in the fourth grade that typically decreased some by the eighth grade. Only England stands out as a country where in both cohorts the achievement gap dropped dramatically towards equality.
Altogether, we offer a clearer concept of general patterns in achievement gaps between immigrant and domestic students on standardized math test scores. We believe that the data we compiled from TIMSS could serve as a proxy for the adjustment of immigrant children and their families overall and could demonstrate a potential policy avenue to speed the rate of assimilation for immigrants that pays dividends for generations.