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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Coethnic Communities and Educational Attainment in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom

  • Author(s): Lee, Rennie
  • Advisor(s): Emigh, Rebecca J
  • et al.

This dissertation quantitatively examines the effect of the coethnic community—a national origin group living closely together in a small neighborhood—on educational attainment in the US, Canada, and the UK, three major immigrant-receiving countries. The average education level of the coethnic community has a positive effect on the educational attainment of immigrant children and the children of immigrants in all three countries. The effect of the coethnic community is particularly strong for immigrant children in Canada and the UK because they face challenges that native-born children of immigrants do not. Specifically, immigrant children encounter two structural problems in these two host countries—limited proficiency in the host country language and being behind in host country schools—that can be attenuated by an educated coethnic community. These challenges stem from the presence of official languages and selective immigration policies in Canada and the UK. Official languages in Canada (English and French) and the UK (English) discourage non-official languages and bilingual assistance, which impede immigrant children’s acquisition of the official language. Furthermore, Canadian and UK immigration policies are primarily skill-based, have limited preferences for family reunification, and prioritize the arrival of the primary immigrant applicant, not subsequent family members. A consequence of Canada’s selective immigration policies is that immigrant children arrive in Canada after their immigrant parent and consequently, are older and further behind in school. In contrast, immigrant children in the US do not face these problems because of a family oriented immigration policy and the absence of an official language. Thus, immigrant children in Canada and the UK receive an additional benefit from the coethnic community because it helps them alleviate structural challenges posed by the presence of an official language and selective immigration policies. While qualitative studies suggest that the coethnic community positively affects educational attainment, my research quantitatively shows that for several Western countries, the coethnic community does indeed positively affect educational attainment but its strength may differ according to the characteristics of the host society.

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