Study: Immigration increases high-school graduation rates for kids born here

June 29, 2012

Immigration advocates often point to the long-term economic benefits of having more newcomers. Here's another one to add to the pile: Economist Jennifer Hunt finds that higher levels of immigration actually increased high-school graduation rates among native-born children, particularly among black students. Examining Census data from 1940 to 2010, Hunt explained her research in a new paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research:

An increase of one percentage point in the share of immigrants in the population aged 11-64 increases the probability that natives aged 11-17 eventually complete 12 years of schooling by 0.3 percentage points, and increases the probability for native-born blacks by 0.4 percentage points

The main reason the increase, she says, is that native-born children have a larger incentive to complete school in order to avoid competing with less-educated immigrants for low-skill jobs.

Interestingly, there's one group that doesn't seem to benefit: Hunt finds that the high-school completion rates of native-born Hispanics actually decline with higher levels of immigrants. "The relatively large negative effect on native Hispanic males of child immigrants of poorly educated parents may be an indicator that native students are most affected in school when exposed to culturally similar immigrants," she writes. In other words, Hunt believes that while other groups strive to differentiate themselves from the new arrivals, those most similar to them culturally might end up backsliding instead.

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Ezra Klein · June 29, 2012