Immigrant Differences in School-Age Children’s Verbal Trajectories

This study explored inter- and intra-individual immigrant group differences in children’s English verbal ability over ages 6 to 16 years in 4 racial/ethnic groups-White Americans, Black Americans, Mexican Americans, and Puerto Ricans. Although all children’s mean verbal scores increased with age in a non-linear fashion, immigrant children (except for Black Americans) had lower average scores than respective non-immigrant children. In contrast, immigrant children (except for Mexican Americans) had more persistent verbal growth into adolescence than respective non-immigrant children, despite entering school at a disadvantage. Across most racial/ethnic groups, family (income and maternal education and age) but not neighborhood resources moderately accounted for immigrant differences in children’s mean verbal scores only. Findings support different theoretical models for understanding inter- and intra-individual immigrant differences in children’s achievement.

Funding Sources: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the National Institute of Justice, and the National Institute of Mental Health. Additional support for this study was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health’s Science and Ecology of Early Childhood Development Initiative and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Research Network on Child and Family Well-Being.  Additional support was provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Postdoctoral Urban Scholars Program and the William T. Grant Foundation Scholars Program.