From the Field

Diversity in Schools: Immigrants and the Performance of U.S. Born Students

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How does exposure to immigrants affect the educational outcomes of U.S.-born students? Researchers David Figlio, Riccaardo Marchingiglio, and Paiola Sapienza of Northwestern University, Paola Giuliano of UCLA, and Umut Ozek of the American Institutes for Research offer an answer in a new working paper.  The team compared the test scores in math and reading of two siblings who had different numbers of immigrant students in their cohorts. Because the siblings are in the same family, their home lives should be relatively similar, reducing the influence of outside factors on their test scores.

The team found that the presence of immigrant students was positively related to academic achievement, meaning the more exposure students had to immigrant classmates, the better they performed academically. This effect was especially significant for disadvantaged students, such as those eligible for free and reduced-price meals. The team found that immigrant presence had no negative effect on affluent students’ academic performance.

When researching, the team found a problematic trend: affluent families, many of whom were White, were likely to leave when immigrants moved into their school district. This research suggests that trend is misguided given the benefits that the presence of immigrants brings to the classrooms.

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By Caroline Berner

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.