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Like Father, Like Son?

Immigrants’ educational selectivity positively influences their children’s level of education
Copyright: yacobchuk

Generally, the pre-migration characteristics of immigrant parents tend to be overlooked when trying to explain the educational and occupational outcomes of their children. However, along with experiences in the host country, previous experiences made in their country of origin also shape the present and future of both immigrants and their descendants.

How does immigrants’ educational selectivity - i.e. how their level of education compares with that of non-migrants in their country of birth - influence the educational attainment of their children? In his study on France, Ichou found that the educational selectivity of immigrants positively influences their children’s level of education, independent of socioeconomic status. He also observes a large degree of heterogeneity in the level of educational selectivity of immigrants from the same country of origin living in France.


Differences in educational selectivity vary both between and within countries of origin

In France, most immigrant groups are positively selected in terms of their educational level while other immigrant groups are negatively selected. For example, post-colonial immigrants from South East Asia and labour migrants and refugees from Africa have higher levels of education compared to those who did not migrate (positive selection). Alternatively, labour migrants from Southern or Central Europe have similar or lower levels of education overall than non-migrants (lesser positive or negative selection).

But the educational selectivity of immigrants in France shows an important degree of heterogeneity also within each country of origin: Some migrants have higher levels of education while others have lower levels of education than their non-migrant counterparts, even if they are from the same the country of origin.  

The findings of this study also suggest that, taking their social position in the country of origin as a reference point, positively selected immigrants in France tend to have higher expectations for their children and encourage them to move upwards on the social ladder.


This Population Digest has been published with financial support from the Progress Programme of the European Union in the framework of the project “Supporting a Partnership for Enhancing Europe’s Capacity to Tackle Demographic and Societal Change”.

Author(s) of the original publication: 
Thais Garcia Pereiro