Schooling Location and Economic, Occupational and Cognitive Success among Immigrants and their Children: The Case of Los Angeles


Large numbers of foreign-born residents in the United States mean that many people receive at least part of their education abroad. Despite this fact, our understanding of nativity differences in the success of adults and their children is based on research that does not empirically consider variation in the benefits to schooling depending on where it is received. We use data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey (L.A. FANS) to examine: (a) whether the socioeconomic and cognitive returns to education depend on whether it is received in the U.S. or abroad; and (b) whether schooling location partially accounts for nativity differences in these returns. We find that the returns to schooling are generally largest for adults who receive at least some of their highest level of education in the U.S. The beneficial effects of U.S. schooling are more pronounced at higher levels of educational attainment. Schooling location accounts for a sizeable fraction of the lower socioeconomic and cognitive returns of the foreign-born, relative to natives; some meaningful differences remain, however. In addition, the higher cognitive skills of the children of foreign-born adults remain unexplained. Although we cannot distinguish among the possible pathways underlying these associations (e.g., school quality, transferability of credentials, the timing of immigration) our findings suggest the importance of considering factors related to schooling location as predictors of socioeconomic and cognitive success in the United States.

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Last updated on 07/05/2018