The first generation comes to America and struggles, but their children do better and the third generation does even better. That’s how it’s supposed to work. But scholars are trying to understand the “immigrant paradox,” reports Education Week. The Americanized children of immigrants often do worse in school than the foreign-born generation, despite fewer English problems. American-born children have more health problems and are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs and act violently.
(Brown Professor Cynthia Garcia Coll) noted that the more acculturated students speak better English but do less homework. In addition, she said, “they are starting to buy in to the notion of minorities here [in the United States], that even if you work hard and play hard, discrimination is going to get at you.”
Reading scores improve for Mexican-American children from the first to the third generation as English skills improve, but math scores decline.
In (UCLA Professor Min Zhou’s) research, she’s found that the Chinese-immigrant community in Los Angeles has been very effective in using ethnic after-school programs to bolster academic success. She said that in addition to teaching the Chinese language, those programs provide previews and reviews of school lessons.
Chinese parents are reluctant to send their children to public after-school programs, Ms. Zhou said, because they have a stereotype that “bad children” go to them, which she interprets to mean the children are “too Americanized.”
The New York Times wrote about a Maryland high school where immigrant students do well academically, but don’t interact much with native-born students.
I met many students from Mexican immigrant families at Downtown College Prep, when I was reporting for Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School that Beat the Odds. The kids expected to work hard to make it in life; once they harnessed that work ethic to school work, they started to catch up academically.
Foreign-born students, some of them here illegally, finished college in four years at a higher rate than American-born students. Those who got no state or federal aid worked harder to get through quickly. The “immigrant paradox” is the result of immigrant hustle.