Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Children of Immigrant Parents More Likely to Fall Behind in School Early

Children with immigrant parents are much more likely to live in poverty, lack health insurance and drop out of high school than children of U.S.-born parents, a recent study concluded.

The children face these challenges even though their parents’ employment rates are similar to those of American parents and they actually are more likely to live in two-parent homes.

The Foundation for Child Development in New York examined the gaps between the groups in a recent policy brief.

The children’s academic performance was also affected by their status as English language learners. According to the study, only about 7 percent of ELL students were proficient in reading in English by the end of third grade, compared with 37 percent of children who spoke English as a first language.

In addition, about 14 percent of ELLs were proficient in mathematics by the end of third grade, compared with 44 percent of children who spoke English as a first language.

“This is the canary in the coal mine for dropping out,” Richard Fry of the Pew Hispanic Center told the Wall Street Journal.

Children of immigrants from Mexico and Central America tend to fair the worst in education measures. Many of those parents don’t have an education beyond elementary school, and are unable to help their children with school work. Those parents also don’t know how to navigate the American school system.

The Journal spoke with Karen Arroyo, 14, a student at the Aspiring Centennial College Preparatory Academy in Los Angeles, about how her parents encouraged her to get a good education. ”[R]ight now, my parents don’t know much about what I am doing because they didn’t go to high school,” she told the newspaper.

“Studies have found that those who are unable to read by the fourth grade are unlikely to ever catch up, and are  four times more likely to drop out of school,” the report’s author, Daniel Hernandez, said in a press release. “These data show us that our education system is failing nine out of ten Dual Language Learner students in the U.S., and even a substantial majority of children whose first language is English.”

The organization makes a number of policy recommendations, including the suggestion that the government must make greater investments in Pre-K programs, provide adequate funding for ELLs and expand programs that seek to improve the job skills of immigrant parents.

The other numbers in the report are broken down here:

-  30 percent of the children of immigrants live below the federal poverty level, compared with 19 percent of those born to non-immigrant parents

- 25 percent of the children of immigrant parents don’t graduate high school, compared with 18 percent of those born to non-immigrant parents

- 15 percent of children in immigrant families lack health insurance, compared with 8 percent of those of American-born parents