IMMIGRANT CHILDREN in schools have near-zero effect on results of native-born children

The educational achievement of native children is almost completely unaffected by the presence of immigrant children, according to research by Dr Asako Ohinata and Professor Jan van Ours, published in the August 2013 issue of the Economic Journal.

Their analysis of two datasets with test scores in reading, maths and science for children in the Netherlands finds a negative correlation between the share of immigrant children in a classroom and the educational attainment of Dutch children. But this could be driven by selective choice with parents of children with higher educational skills sending them to schools with a low percentage of immigrants. Once school differences are taken into account, the negative effects of immigrant children are virtually zero.

The Dutch experience presents an interesting case study, since immigrant children in the Netherlands generally come from families with lower education, a feature shared by immigrants in most European countries.

Studying immigrant ”spillover effects” is helpful for exploring policy implications for how to allocate immigrant children to minimise any negative effects or maximise any positive effects on the educational attainment of native children. Similarly, the results may highlight the potential importance of providing additional resources to schools or classes with large numbers of immigrant children.

The researchers find that the presence of immigrant children in the same learning environment has very limited and insignificant impacts on Dutch children”s academic achievements.

For example, a one percentage point increase in the proportion of immigrant children in class reduces the average Dutch pupil”s reading score with 0.21% of the standard deviation in reading scores. Similarly, a one percentage point increase in the share of immigrant children reduces the science score with 0.40% but increases the maths score with 0.74% of the standard deviation of the score distribution.

The study also finds that girls perform better in reading tests and worse in maths and science. The more books children have at home, the better they perform in their tests. Teachers” teaching experiences seem to matter little although results suggest that older teachers enhance children”s reading scores, but younger teachers seem to be better at teaching maths and science classes.

Overall, the researchers do not find strong evidence of negative spillover effects on the test scores from immigrant children to native Dutch children. They conclude that there is no urgent need to redistribute immigrant children more evenly across classrooms, since the native children”s educational attainment is not affected by the presence of these immigrant children.

”How Immigrant Children Affect the Academic Achievement of Native Dutch Children” by Asako Ohinata and Jan van Ours is published in the August 2013 issue of the Economic Journal. Asako Ohinata is at the University of Leicester. Jan van Ours is at Tilburg University.

Asako Ohinata

+44 116 252 2894 | ao160@le.ac.uk

Jan van Ours