The New Talented Tenth

Among the cohort of young Americans who were in 9th grade in 2009, somewhat over twice as large a percent of immigrants or children of immigrants attend or attended a selective college as US born children of US born parents:

From the High School Longitudinal Study: 2009 Cohort

This largely reflects stronger high school performance among immigrants/children of immigrants: for example, here are the % who are immigrants or children of immigrants by different percentiles of 9th and 10th grade math scores:


This looks pretty much the same if you weight GPA as strongly as test scores:


This, in turn, is largely but not entirely due to the upper tiers of school performance being dominated by Asians (whose families are likely to be recent immigrants); within each main racial category apart from whites, immigrants and their children are clustered at the top of the distribution.


Even conditioning on HS GPA and 9th/10th grade test scores, moreover, students who are immigrants or children of immigrants are slightly more likely to attend a selective college:


Apart from whatever this says about American culture and what it does for kids’ interest in school, I think this solidifies my opinion that immigration isn’t going anywhere as a political fulcrum. The upper echelons of American life will likely be disproportionately composed of people whose families benefited from a relatively open immigration system for a long while, even as, my guess is, broader shifts in demography, the economy, and pressures on the welfare state will continue to create contrary forces towards immigration restriction.

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