Enough Room for All

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Science  09 Oct 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5950, pp. 207
DOI: 10.1126/science.326_207b

Debate about immigration and how it might strengthen or weaken a society often touches on education. Some opponents of immigration voice concerns that an influx of noncitizen foreigners may swamp school systems and labor markets with relatively uneducated newcomers, to the detriment of natives. Research has supported some fears of this sort, demonstrating, for example, that the enrollment of immigrants in some college programs may “crowd out” natives. But while such research has examined whether natives ultimately go to college and how well they fare once there, work by Neymotin examines important precursors: Do immigrants affect natives at key pre-college stages, as reflected by college entrance exam scores—obtained in the U.S. on the scholastic aptitude test (SAT)—and college application patterns? The 1990s brought one of the largest waves of immigration, with California and Texas representing two major gateways. The author analyzed questionnaires and SAT scores for every SAT-taking public school student in those two states during the years 1994 through 2001. These individual-level data were matched to information about the school, school district, and surrounding community gathered by the Department of Education and Census Bureau. Controlling for a wide range of variables and potential biases, the author concludes that immigration did not harm natives' test performance, nor diminish the probability of their applying to a top college or university.

Econ. Educ. Rev. 28, 538 (2009).

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