NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Impact of Immigration on the Educational Attainment of Natives

An increase of one percentage point in the share of immigrants aged 11-64 in the population increases the probability that natives aged 11-17 eventually complete 12 years of schooling by 0.3 percentage points.

In The Impact of Immigration on the Educational Attainment of Natives (NBER Working Paper No. 18047), Jennifer Hunt finds that, contrary to the popular notion that immigrants may have a negative impact on the public education experience of native-born children, the net effect of immigrant children in schools is positive. Using the 1940-2000 censuses and the pooled 2008-2010 American Community Surveys, Hunt focuses on the impact of immigration on the probability of natives' completion of 12 years of schooling. She finds that an increase of one percentage point in the share of immigrants aged 11-64 in the population increases the probability that natives aged 11-17 eventually complete 12 years of schooling by 0.3 percentage points.

There are at least two ways in which immigration could affect schooling outcomes for natives. Immigrant children could compete for schooling resources with native children, lowering the return to native education and discouraging native high school completion. Conversely, native children might be encouraged to complete high school in order to avoid competing with immigrant high-school dropouts in the labor market. Hunt finds evidence that both channels are operative and that the net effect is positive, particularly for native-born blacks, but not for native-born Hispanics.

Compared to natives, immigrants to the United States are much more likely to be poorly educated, and also more likely to be highly educated. Immigrants are underrepresented among workers with an intermediate level of education, such as a high school diploma.

--Matt Nesvisky

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