College Enrollment, Attainment, and Persistence Among Immigrant Youth
The education and successful integration of immigrant youth are imperative for the U.S. economy. Indeed, first- and second-generation immigrants are estimated to account for 93% of the nation’s working-age population growth over the next three decades (Pew, 2013). However, existing empirical work on postsecondary outcomes among immigrant youth mainly focuses on differences between pan-racial/ethnic categories, potentially masking within-group differences (e.g., ethnic/regional variations) arising from unique pre- and post-migration contexts and experiences. This dissertation aims to uncover heterogeneity within and between immigrant racial/ethnic groups’ trajectories in higher education. A special focus is placed on Asian immigrants, a pan-racial group that represented about 28% of the immigrant population in 2018 but comprised several distinct ethnic and regional groups with considerable variation in pre- and post-immigration experiences (Pew, 2018). The dissertation also helps advance current knowledge by simultaneously examining variations by ethnic/regional groups and generational statuses for Asian youth. Utilizing data from the High School Longitudinal Study 2009, the first part of the dissertation explores enrollment, attainment, and persistence differences among pan-racial/ethnic groups and, in turn, disaggregated analyses specifically for Asian ethnicities and regions. Second, the dissertation examines variations in postsecondary outcomes as a function of immigrant generation (i.e., first, second, or third generation, focusing on both within– and across–racial and ethnic group differences). For this second aim, variations within and between Asian ethnicities and regions are closely examined. The findings indicate that pan-racial/ethnic differences follow patterns previously highlighted in the literature; however, evidence of generational differences within and between groups in this study extends the existing literature. For example, there was evidence of generational advantages in educational outcomes for first- and second-generation youth compared with the third generation for Asian and Black youth. On the other hand, there was evidence of disadvantage among first-generation Latinx youth. The disaggregated analyses for Asian immigrants also revealed several important findings. For example, the second-generation advantage found at the pan-racial level for Asian immigrants persisted for Southeast Asians and partially for Chinese and South Asian immigrants. However, it disappeared for other Asian ethnic/regional groups for several outcomes. These findings have implications for the discourse around immigrants by challenging current pervasive pan-racial/ethnic narratives. In particular, for Asian immigrants, often stereotyped as the “Model Minority,” the immigration and assimilation process is not monolithic. Therefore, postsecondary outcomes reflect these complex and heterogeneous processes.