The Effects of Foreign-Born Peers in US High Schools and Middle Schools
The multi-decade growth and spatial dispersion of immigrant families in the United States has shifted the composition of US schools, reshaping the group of peers with whom students age through adolescence. US-born students are more likely to have foreign-born peers and foreign-born students are more likely to be educated outside of enclaves. This study examines the short-term and long-term impact of being educated with immigrant peers, for both US-born and foreign-born students. We leverage a quasi-experimental research design that uses across-grade, within-school variation in cohort composition for students in the Add Health study. We describe effects on a broad set of education, social, and health outcomes. For US-born students, we find little evidence that having immigrant peers affects a wide array of outcomes, either in adolescence or in adulthood. For foreign-born students, attending school with other immigrant students is protective against risky health behaviors and social isolation, relative to native born students. However, foreign-born students’ language skills measured with Picture-Vocabulary Test scores are negatively affected by attending school with a larger share of other immigrant students. The negative effect on vocabulary scores persists through young adulthood but does not translate into reductions in most longer-run socioeconomic outcomes, including earnings or the economic status of their residential neighborhoods.
This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website (http://www.cpc.unc.edu/addhealth). No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. The authors thank Eric Grodsky, Christine Schwartz, and the William T. Grant Foundation for research support for this project. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Professor Ross has received support for research on career and technical education from the Institute for Education Sciences.