Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (viii, 272 pages) : illustrations (some color), color map.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Zai Z Liang

Committee Members

Glenn G Deane, Zoya Z Gubernskaya, Kathryn K Schiller


Immigrant children, Academic achievement

Subject Categories



This dissertation explores immigrant children’s academic performance in both established and non-established immigrant destinations in the United States. Integrating data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, the Stanford Education Data Archive, American Community Survey, and several other sources, it uses Ordinary Least Squares regression and multilevel modeling strategies relating family, school and neighborhood contexts to students’ performance in a standardized math test. With a typology of immigrant destinations defined at the county level, it compares immigrant and non-immigrant students within each type of immigrant destination as well as between immigrant students residing in different destinations. Results show that among immigrant students, those in new and fast-growing destinations tend to have lower math test scores than their counterparts in established destinations. These gaps cannot be fully explained by individual or family level factors but are likely to be shaped by the contexts these immigrants are embedded in as the gaps only become insignificant when either school level factors or county level variations are taken into account. Further investigation indicates that differences in immigrant students’ performance across destinations mostly exist among Hispanic immigrants, and that Asian immigrant students in established destinations show no significant differences than their counterparts in other places. And the differences in math test scores between immigrant and non-immigrant students in those non-established immigrant destinations are not significantly different from the two-group difference in more established areas. Moreover, there is some evidence showing that certain family and county level factors affect immigrant students in ways that are quite different than for non-immigrant students. The effects of parental education and expectation for their children’s education, for instance, are smaller among immigrant students than among non-immigrant students in established destinations, although no similar patterns exist in those non-established destinations. In addition, it is also found that the influences of some factors on immigrant students’ performance vary by immigrant destination. Home ownership, in particular, are positively associated with immigrant students’ math test scores when they reside in new, fast-growing or minor destinations, but the association is negative for immigrant students who attend schools in more established areas. Finally, the influence of law enforcement activities initiated by the Immigration Customs Enforcement on students’ performance is unevenly distributed across immigrant destinations and for students attending schools in established or fast-growing destinations, their math test scores tend to be lower with higher ICE detention rates in the local county, although this association is not necessarily more pronounced among the immigrant students than among the non-immigrant students. As is clear, although immigrant students’ educational experiences tend to share a lot of similarities across immigrant destinations, there are still some significant differences that might be consequential to their adaptation in the U.S. society.

Included in

Sociology Commons