My Turn/Hendry: Immigrant children are often success stories


Published: 5/1/2017 3:53:03 PM

Editor’s note: This is one of three columns among several submitted by students of Four Rivers Charter Public School’s ninth graders as they wrapped up their English/Social Studies expedition on immigration study. They researched a variety of issues connected to immigration, both past and present. They then chose one immigration issue to write about using the format of articles that would appear in a newspaper.

Children who have immigrated to the United States, along with their families are likely to outperform kids who were born here in the United States. When those immigrant children grow up, their children are also more likely to do better than their peers without immigrant parents.

A study done by Johns Hopkins University researchers Lingxin Hao and Han S. Woo tracked approximately 11,000 children from all different backgrounds from as young as age 13 into their early 30s. When they compared children with similar socio-economic status, school conditions and environments, Hao and Woo found that the best students, and then later the most successful young adults, were born in foreign countries and came to the United States before reaching their teenage years.

In addition, American-born children whose parents were immigrants followed closely in terms of achievement. “They have higher expectations, they make a higher effort and they have better cultural tools,” said Hao, sociologist and lead author of the study. “Their culture is not just American.”

They have the experience of living their first few years in a very different culture, “so they have cultural diversity and they are able to take the best part of both (worlds) and use it while in school,” she added. That will continue to help them transition into adulthood.

Hao suggests that the reasoning behind their success is a greater sense of community among immigrants and that they often need assistance when they first arrive in the U.S.

But Hao, who was born in China, adds that there is also a great deal of inspiration to be found among the immigrant communities. Some parents might be working multiple low-level jobs and would encourage their children to seek a better life for themselves. The success stories of immigrants who have become successful are also role models for upcoming immigrant children, something other native-born groups might be lacking.

“With 24 percent of all American children from immigrant families, our findings provide fresh evidence for policy makers who are concerned with the quality of immigrant generations and the skill composition of the future labor force,” Hao said. “My hope is that policy makers will look at our findings and work on ways to create similar ‘protective factors’ for all racial minority children because these factors allow children from immigrant families to do well and be resilient despite their lower socioeconomic and racial-minority backgrounds.”


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