Date of Completion


Embargo Period



children of immigrants, early childhood, academic achievement

Major Advisor

Simon Cheng

Associate Advisor

Mary J. Fischer

Associate Advisor

Jeremy Pais

Associate Advisor

Michael E. Wallace

Associate Advisor

David L. Weakliem

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Once considered academically at risk, children of immigrants are now widely regarded as beholders of educational advantages. The research evidence asserting these advantages comes mostly from examining adolescents and young adults. Contrastingly, the small number of studies on younger children disagrees over whether those with foreign-born parents lag or lead in early years of schooling. This age bias impedes a more comprehensive understanding of their academic trajectories, and limits how the educational advantages may be theorized.

This dissertation adopts a longitudinal approach to examine academic differences by parental nativity and race between kindergarten and eighth grade. Through estimating achievement gaps and growth curve models, the analysis yields three major findings: a) the academic trajectory of the average child of immigrants features a slower start and faster growth; b) subgroup analysis shows this pattern to be most salient among Black and Hispanic children; c) statistically controlling for individual differences in demographic traits and family resources changes the initial disparities considerably but does little to alter the subsequent growth. These results suggest that influences of family resources have mostly solidified by the time children start formal schooling. Furthermore, findings of an initial disadvantage challenge the view that immigrants are successful in mobilizing resources for their children's academic gains. Rather, it supports explanations that attribute the educational advantages to children's motivation and academic engagement. I conclude by discussing the importance of the social and developmental context of adolescence and distinct conditions surrounding youth of different races.