Longitudinal Pathways to Educational Attainment for Youth in Mexican and Central American Immigrant Families

Mexican and Central American-origin youth in immigrant families, the fastest growing segment of the K-12 school population, experience considerably worse educational outcomes than do youth from other Latino national origins and other racial and ethnic backgrounds. Socioeconomic factors, as well as length of U.S. residence, have important implications for youth’s academic success. The present study uses longitudinal structural equation modeling techniques to identify how parents’ socioeconomic status (SES) and youth’s length of U.S. residence are associated with adolescent academic outcomes and, in turn, educational attainment in adulthood. The sample included 1,207 Mexican- and Central American-origin youth participants in the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS). Youth completed surveys at times corresponding roughly to ages 13 to 15 (Time 1), 16 to 18 (Time 2), and 23 to 25 (Time 3). When compared with youth with a longer duration of U.S. residence, young people who had lived in the U.S. for less than 5 years at Time 1 reported higher educational attainment at Time 3 by way of a better grade-point average (GPA) and higher educational expectations at Time 1. Parent SES was associated directly and indirectly with higher educational attainment through youth’s greater educational expectations at Times 1 and 2. Although recent immigrant youth experienced sharper declines in GPA and educational expectations from Time 1 to Time 2 than youth with a longer duration of U.S. residence, newcomer youth’s early academic success appears to have lasting benefits for educational attainment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)