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Transmitting educational disadvantage? Measuring intergenerational mobility in migrant families

This research project has been completed. Please contact a team member for further information.


The effects of post-World War Two immigration, in particular the social, cultural and demographic shifts that much of the Western world experienced during this period, has been highly documented throughout the literature over the past 10 years.

Immigrants tend to either be highly qualified or have little in the way of formal education. In the latter case (which is the larger group numerically) this raises a serious cause for concern. The key question is whether the low level of education of the parents is passed on to their children. If immigrant children are disadvantaged in this way it would have implications for the success or failure of educational systems in integrating the children of immigrants, and the long term social mobility of those children.

To date, research on the degree to which the education attainment of parents impacts on that of their children has been inconclusive. Preliminary results suggest that aggregate data when used tends to overstate the effect of parental education on their children in comparison with the native populations. Other factors must therefore be considered.


This project is the first of its kind to systematically review and compare different types of analyses of inter-generational mobility in educational outcomes , with two interrelated projects forming the basis of this research.

The first project evaluates estimates of immigrant inter-generational transmission in the United States. It will evaluate estimates of immigrant inter-generational transmission in the USA, drawn from aggregate level data.

The second project examines the sensitivity of estimates of immigrant inter-generational transmission to selected educational indicators.

Project aims

This project aims to:

  1. Provide insight into the determinants of educational success among the children of immigrants
  2. To examine the impact of immigration on social inequality and to review the extent to which immigrants with little formal education pass on their education disadvantage/advantage to their children
  3. To provide insights into the deteminants of educational success amongst the children of immigrants
  4. To provide methodological insight for researchers who rely on aggregate data
  5. To explore the factors affecting the relationship between immigrant parents and their children in terms of educational attainment.
  6. To investigate cross-country comparisons of educational attainment where sending countries and receiving countries have similar/dissimilar educational systems

Team members

Dr Renee Luthra

Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology - University of Essex

Renee Luthra is a Senior Research Officer at ISER. Research interests include Immigration and Integration in Europe, Social stratification and education

Thomas Soehl

Graduate researcher - Institute for Social and Economic Research

Thomas Soehl is a graduate student researcher with interests in cross border connections of migrants, political incorporation of migrants, linguistic and religious diversity in immigrant societies.

Transmitting educational disadvantage

Photo credit: Cara