Why do so Many Children of Immigrants (and their Children) Attend University? Some Evidence for Canada

Richard Mueller 1, Ross Finnie2
1University of Lethbridge, Canada, 2University of Ottawa, Canada

In our previous work on the post-secondary (i.e., college and university) attendance of immigrants to Canada, we have shown that the children of first and second-generation immigrants from a number of source countries (e.g., China) have higher post-secondary education attendance rates compared to the group of immigrants from all regions in the world, who in turn have higher rates compared to those born in Canada to Canadian-born parents. Even though college participation rates are generally lower for the children of immigrants compared to those born in Canada to Canadian parents, these extraordinarily high university participation rates mean that these immigrants and their children have the highest overall PSE participation rates. Even after controlling for a variety of family influences and environmental factors, a large proportion of these higher attendance rates still cannot be explained. Recent research by Akerlof and Kranton on “identity” could hold the key to explaining this phenomenon. Using familiar decomposition techniques and the extremely rich Canadian Youth in Transition Survey, we attempt to answer the question, why do so many immigrants and their children attend university? And what characteristics do some some immigrant groups have that others may not which increases the probability of university attendance? The policy implications of these findings will be discussed.

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