Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 639–659 | Cite as

Population Change and Changing Educational Attainment of Ethnic Groups in the United States, 1980–2000

  • Franklin D. Wilson
  • Uzi Rebhun
  • Salvador Rivas


This study assesses the effect of population change on decade changes in the educational attainments of country of origin populations in the United States. Our data are derived from decennial censuses, NLMS, the World Bank, and INS. We find that changes in the share of country of origin populations with one or more years of post-secondary schooling are associated with selected components of population change during the 1980–1990 and 1990–2000 decades. The specific components include survivors during the decade, in-migration, and emigration of the foreign-born. Likewise, intra-generational mobility is found to be an important determinant of changes in educational attainment. The discussion addresses limitations of the data and suggests directions for future research as well as policy implications.


Country of origin Education Generational change Migration Multi-level analysis Survivors United States 


  1. Alba, R. D. (1990). Ethnic identity: The transformation of white America. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Alba, R. D., & Nee, V. (2003). Remaking the American mainstream: Assimilation and contemporary immigration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Barro, R. J., & Lee, J.-W. (2000). International data on educational attainment: Updates and implications. Harvard University, Center for International Development, Working Paper No. 42.Google Scholar
  4. Bobo, L., O’Connor, A., & Tilly, C. (Eds.). (2001). Urban inequality: Evidence from four cities. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  5. Chiswick, B. R., & DebBurman, N. (2004). Educational attainment: Analysis by immigrant generation. Economics of Education Review, 23(4), 361–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chiswick, B. R., & Sullivan, T. A. (1995). The new immigrants. In R. Farley (Ed.), State of the union: America in the 1990s, Vol. II: Social Trends (pp. 211–270). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  7. Entwisle, D. R., Alexander, K. L., & Olson, L. S. (2005). First grade and educational attainment by Age 22: A new story. American Journal of Sociology, 110(5), 1458–1502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Featherman, D. L., & Hauser, R. M. (1978). Opportunity and change. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  9. Feliciano, C. (2005). Educational selectivity in U.S. immigration: How do immigrants compare to those left behind? Demography, 42(1), 131–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fischer, C. S., & Hout, M. (2006). Century of difference: How America changed in the last hundred years. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  11. Gamoran, A. (2001). American schooling and educational inequality: A forecast for the 21st century. Sociology of Education, 74(Special Issue), 135–153.Google Scholar
  12. Herrnstein, R. J., & Murray, C. (1994). The bell curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  13. Hirschman, C. (1983). American’s melting pot reconsidered. Annual Review of Sociology, 9, 397–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hirschman, C. (2001). The educational enrollment of immigrant youth: A test of the segmented-assimilation hypothesis. Demography, 38(3), 317–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jensen, L. (2001). The demographic diversity of immigrants and their children. In R. G. Rumbaut & A. Portes (Eds.), Ethnicities: Children of immigrants in America (pp. 21–56). Berkeley/New York: University of California Press/Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  16. Leventhal, T., Fauth, R. C., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2005). Neighborhood poverty and public policy: A 5-year follow-up of children educational outcomes in the New York City moving to opportunity demonstration. Development Psychology, 41(6), 933–952.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lieberson, S., & Waters, M. C. (1988). From many strands: Ethnic and racial groups in contemporary America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  18. Mare, R. D. (1995). Changes in educational attainment and school enrolment. In: R. Farley (Ed.), State of the union: America in the 1990s (Vol. 1, Economic Trends, pp. 155–213). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  19. Massey, D. S. (1999). Why does immigration occur? A theoretical synthesis. In C. Hirschman, J. De Wind, & P. Kasinitz (Eds.), The handbook of international migration: The American experience (pp. 34–52). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  20. McLanahan, S. S. (1985). Family structure and the reproduction of poverty. American Journal of Sociology, 90(4), 873–901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Myers, D. (2005). Cohorts and socioeconomic progress. In R. Farley & J. Haaga (Eds.), The American people: Census 2000 (pp. 139–166). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  22. Pappas, G., Queen, S., Hadden, W., & Fisher, G. (1993). The increasing disparity in mortality between socioeconomic groups in the United States, 1960 and 1986. The New England Journal of Medicine, 329(2), 103–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Portes, A., & Zhou, M. (1993). The new second generation: Segmented assimilation and its variants. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 530, 74–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Redstone, I., & Massey, D. S. (2004). Coming to stay: Analysis of the U.S. census question on immigrants year of arrival. Demography, 41(4), 721–738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sorlie, P. D., Backlund, E., & Keller, J. B. (1995). US mortality by economic, demographic, and social characteristics: The National Longitudinal Mortality Study. American Journal of Public Health, 85(7), 949–956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. United States Bureau of the Census. (2008)., Historical tables, current population survey: Table A-1. Years of school completed by people 25 years and over, by age and sex: Selected years 1940 to 2006; Table A-2. Percent of people 25 years and over who have completed high school or college, by race, Hispanic origin and sex: Selected years, 1940–2006.
  27. Van Hook, J., Weiwei, Z., Bean, F. D., & Passel, J. S. (2006). Foreign-born emigration: A new approach and estimates based matched CPS files. Demography, 43(2), 361–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Franklin D. Wilson
    • 1
  • Uzi Rebhun
    • 2
  • Salvador Rivas
    • 3
  1. 1.University of Wisconsin–MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.The Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael
  3. 3.University of LuxembourgLuxembourgGrand Duchy of Luxembourg

Personalised recommendations