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Journal Article

From parent to child? Transmission of educational attainment within immigrant families: methodological considerations


Publication date

Apr 2015


One in five U.S. residents under the age of 18 has at least one
foreign-born parent. Given the large proportion of immigrants with very
low levels of schooling, the strength of the intergenerational
transmission of education between immigrant parent and child has
important repercussions for the future of social stratification in the
United States. We find that the educational transmission process between
parent and child is much weaker in immigrant families than in native
families and, among immigrants, differs significantly across national
origins. We demonstrate how this variation causes a substantial
overestimation of the importance of parental education in immigrant
families in studies that use aggregate data. We also show that the
common practice of “controlling” for family human capital using parental
years of schooling is problematic when comparing families from
different origin countries and especially when comparing native and
immigrant families. We link these findings to analytical and empirical
distinctions between group- and individual-level processes in
intergenerational transmission.

Published in


Volume and page numbers

52 , 543 -567





Migration and Social Mobility


Open Access article; ©The Author(s) 2015. This article is published with open access at

Related publications

  1. Who assimilates? Statistical artefacts and intergenerational mobility in immigrant families

    Renee Reichl Luthra and Thomas Soehl

    1. Migration
    2. Social Mobility


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