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The Educational Attainments of the “Second Generation”: A Comparative Study of Britain, Canada, and the United States

by Catherine Rothon, Anthony Heath & Laurence Lessard-Phillips - 2009

Background: This analysis compares the educational attainments of the “new” second generation in Britain, Canada, and the United States using three nationally representative datasets.

Objective: To assess how the second generation has fared within Western educational systems. The study examines the achievements of seven minority ethnic groups: Africans, Caribbeans, Chinese, Filipinos, Indians, Irish, and Pakistanis.

Setting: Britain, Canada, and the United States.

Research Design: Secondary data analysis

Conclusions: The study suggests that there is a strong association between the educational level of the parental generation and that of the second generation. There is substantial intergenerational progress (measured relative to the majority population in the country of destination), especially among women. Most groups perform as well as or better than members of the majority population of the same age and similar parental background. Chinese of both sexes are notable for their high performance. Indians also tend to make strong intergenerational progress; for Caribbeans, Africans, and Filipinos, this is more muted. The performance of the second generation in Britain is slightly poorer than that in the other countries. This is probably explained by the lower selectivity of the first generation in Britain rather than by institutional features.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 111 Number 6, 2009, p. 1404-1443
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15347, Date Accessed: 8/3/2021 7:27:45 PM

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About the Author
  • Catherine Rothon
    Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
    E-mail Author
    CATHERINE ROTHON is an MRC Special Training Fellow at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of London. She studied for her first degree in History at the University of Cambridge. Her doctorate, awarded in 2005 by the University of Oxford, focused on the educational achievements of the second generation in Britain. Her research interests include educational inequalities, ethnicity, mental health, and racial prejudice. Her current project looks at the three-way relationship between psychological health, educational achievement and “social capital.”
  • Anthony Heath
    University of Oxford
    ANTHONY HEATH is professor of sociology at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of Nuffield College, and codirector of CREST (the Centre for Research into Elections and Social Trends). He is currently the head of the Department of Sociology. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1992. His research interests cover social stratification, ethnicity, electoral behavior, and national identity. He has published many books and over 100 scientific papers. His most recent book, Unequal Chances: Ethnic Minorities in Western Labour Markets (edited, with Sin Yi Cheung) was published by Oxford University Press this year. He is currently carrying out projects evaluating the affirmative action program in Northern Ireland and the decline of traditional identities in Britain, and he is working with a team of European colleagues on a comparative study of ethnic minority education.
  • Laurence Lessard-Phillips
    Nuffield College
    LAURENCE LESSARD-PHILLIPS is a DPhil candidate at Nuffield College. Her doctorate examines ethnic educational inequalities among the second generation in four receiving societies.
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