Ethnic educational inequalities amongst the second generation in four receiving societies

Laurence Lessard-Phillips and Anthony Heath, Nuffield College, Oxford

[Project number 301000]

This research project aims to contribute to the advancement of our understanding of the adaptation of immigrants, oriented to a comparative analysis of the educational attainment of second generation immigrants. The data from the ONS LS is being used to analyse the education of second generation immigrants (children of immigrants) of ethnic minority background, and to assess the impact of social background (using parental socio-economic background) on attainment, in comparison to the native population. This analysis forms part of a chapter of a PhD thesis on the education of adult second generation individuals that would also focus on attainment levels amongst the second generation and between men and women.

The adaptation of immigrants to their country of adoption is an important question of analysis, but yet the assimilation of immigrant groups spans beyond an examination of the experiences of the first generation. It is of utmost interest to consider the extent to which the children of immigrants - second generation immigrants - are adapting to their parents' country of adoption. One way in which one can measure this phenomenon is through an analysis of second generation immigrants' educational attainment in comparison to their parents, and in relation to children of non-immigrant parents of similar age.


Education is important to investigate because it is a means through which an individual accumulates human capital, which increases opportunities in the labour market. Moreover, education helps in building social networks, through students' interactions with peers and teachers, and also serves as a tool of social integration. Decisions about education are channelled through parents' education and parental knowledge of the country of adoption's schooling system; therefore it is important to examine the achievement of students whose parents might not have complete information about the country of adoption's schooling system. This suggests the usefulness of comparing second generation immigrants with other groups as proxy measures for immigrant adaptation.