Publication

Is there a Nativity Gap? New Evidence on the Academic Performance of Immigrant Students
Education Finance and Policy. Vol. 1, No. 1, Pages 17-49. March 29,

Schwartz, A.E. & Stiefel, L.
03/29/2006

Public schools across the United States are educating an increasing number and diversity of immigrant students. Unfortunately, little is known about their performance relative to native-born students and the extent to which the "nativity gap" might be explained by school and demographic characteristics. This article takes a step toward filling that void using data from New York City where 17 percent of elementary and middle school students are immigrants. We explore disparities in performance between foreign-born and native-born students on reading and math tests in three ways�using levels (unadjusted scores), "value-added" scores (adjusted for prior performance), and an education production function. While unadjusted levels and value-added measures often indicate superior performance among immigrants, disparities are substantially explained by student and school characteristics. Further, while the nativity gap differs for students from different world regions, disparities are considerably diminished in fully specified models. We conclude with implications for urban schools in the United States.