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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Adios to the ‘immigrant paradox’

It’s called the “immigrant paradox.” Immigrants’ children do better in school and behave better than classmates from native-born families of similar socioeconomic status.

Some speculate that “Americanization undermines achievement,” writes sociologist Cynthia Feliciano of University of California at Irvine.

But there is no paradox, Feliciano’s research, published in the American Sociological Review, concluded.

Immigrant kids tend to succeed because their parents were successful in their native countries,” Feliciano found.

By U.S. standards, many immigrants are poorly educated, but most are better educated and more successful than those who stay behind, explains Emily DeRuy in The Atlantic.

Consider this scenario: A Filipino woman starts and runs her own business in the Philippines. Then, her family moves to the United States. Without a college degree and possibly still learning English, she works as a home health aide . . .  the lower paycheck doesn’t mean she’s suddenly lost the skills that propelled her to become a businesswoman in her native country. And, crucially, Feliciano’s research suggests, she’s likely to cultivate those skills in her own children.

Even though immigrant parents may not speak English well or understand American culture, they can pass on their work ethic and aspirations to their children.

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