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The Children of Immigrants and Host-Society Educational Systems: Mexicans in the United States and North Africans in France


by Richard Alba & Roxane Silberman — 2009

Background/Context: The educational fate of the children of low-wage immigrants is a salient issue in all the economically developed societies that have received major immigration flows since the 1950s. The article considers the way in which educational systems in the two countries structure the educational experiences and shape the opportunities of the children of immigrants.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This article examines the experience of the children of Mexican immigrants in the United States and of North African immigrants in France. Both groups are low-wage labor migrants with low educational attainment relative to the native born.

Research Design: The article uses data from the U.S. Census and the 2003 Formation Qualification Professionelle Survey in France, as well as analysis of other research on the two countries to compare educational processes and attainment for the two groups.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The comparison of the two systems shows that although the French and U.S. educational systems differ in many ways, the outcomes are in fact quite similar. In both systems, the children of low-wage labor migrants are tracked into the low streams of the educational hierarchy and have lower attainment than their native-born peers. At the same time, in both countries, a small percentage of children of immigrants do manage to succeed. The authors conclude that despite apparent differences between the two systems, residential segregation and educational tracking produce these similar outcomes, which also reflect the determination of native-born middle-class parents to preserve their privileged status and thwart efforts to make the educational system more open.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 111 Number 6, 2009, p. 1444-1475
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15340, Date Accessed: 3/30/2017 8:50:00 AM

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About the Author
  • Richard Alba
    City University of New York
    E-mail Author
    RICHARD ALBA is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the Graduate and University Center of the City University of New York. His most recent book is the award-winning Remaking the American Mainstream (2003), which he co-authored with Victor Nee.
  • Roxane Silberman
    Paris School of Economics
    E-mail Author
    ROXANE SILBERMAN is a researcher at the Maurice Halbwachs Center at the Center at National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and is also the Secretary General of the Interministerial Committee for Data in the Social Sciences. Among her recent publications are articles in Ethnic and Racial Studies and in the Revue française de sociologie that examine the case of North Africans in France in the light of segmented-assimilation theory.
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