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School & District Management

Children of Immigrants Fare Well on Some Social Indicators

By Mary Ann Zehr — March 15, 2011 1 min read
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On two social factors that help determine the well-being of young people, children of immigrants stack up almost as well or better than the offspring of native-born parents. Children in immigrant families are much more likely to live in two-parent homes instead of one-parent homes, in comparison with children of U.S.-born parents. Also, there is little difference between the two groups in how often they moved in the past year. Those are findings of a report released this month by the Washington-based First Focus and New York-based Foundation for Child Development. One-fourth of all children in the United States in 2010 were children of immigrants; 88 percent of those children were born in this country.

Twenty-five percent of children of immigrants live with one parent, compared with 32 percent of children whose parents were born in the United States. That indicator is important, the authors of the report write, because on average, children who live with one parent have less educational success than those who reside with two parents.

It’s important that children don’t change locations too much, the study points out, because moving disrupts social relationships.

On some indicators of well-being, however, children in immigrant families don’t fare as well as those of native-born parents, the study found. They are less likely, for example, to be enrolled in prekindergarten programs. The report says that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act “must address the issues of access, outreach, language development, and parental engagement as they relate to the early education of children of immigrants.” The report adds that early education should incorporate bilingual education strategies and models that address language and literacy for parents as well as children.

Illinois, by the way, began to require at the start of this school year that public preschool programs provide bilingual education if they have a critical mass of children who speak the same language. That’s an effort I will continue to follow.

And the Toyota Family Literacy Program, which I wrote about for EdWeek in January, is one example of an effort in schools to support literacy of both parents and children.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.