Publication

Age of Entry and the High School Performance of Immigrant Youth
Journal of Urban Economics 67: 303-314

Stiefel, Leanna, Amy Ellen Schwartz, and Dylan Conger
01/01/2010

In 2005, immigrants exceeded 12% of the US population, with the highest concentrations in large metropolitan areas. While considerable research has focused on how immigrants affect local wages and housing prices, less research has asked how immigrants fare in US urban public schools. Previous studies find that foreign-born students outperform native-born students in their elementary and middle school years, but urban policymakers and practitioners continue to raise concerns about educational outcomes of immigrants arriving in their high school years.

The authors use data on a large cohort of New York City (NYC) public high school students to examine how the performance of students who immigrate during high school (teen immigrants) differs from that of students who immigrate during middle school (tween immigrants) or elementary school (child immigrants), relative to otherwise similar native-born students. Contrary to prior studies, their difference-in-difference estimates suggest that, ceteris paribus, teen immigrants do well compared to native-born migrants, and that the foreign-born advantage is relatively large among the teen (im)migrants. That said, their findings provide cause for concern about the performance of limited English proficient students, blacks and Hispanics and, importantly, teen migrants. In particular, switching school districts in the high school years - that is, student mobility across school districts - may be more detrimental than immigration per se. Results are robust to alternative specifications and cohorts, including a cohort of Miami students.