Children of Immigrants Excel

Faizah Saadmim

A recent study by Stanford University and Princeton University concluded that children of immigrants have increased rates of upward mobility than that of children of whose parents are born in America. It is reported that second-generation immigrants growing up in families earning $105,000 were able to boost their incomes from $6,000 to $15,000 while the children of those born in the U.S. were able to boost their incomes by only $2,000 to $6,000.

This greater success is also seen in the academic performance of children of immigrants. ABC News reports that children who immigrate to the United States with their families are likely to outperform kids with a similar background who were born here.

In an interview, senior Karen Xi a second-generation Chinese immigrant expressed that, based on anecdotal evidence, this is not surprising.

“Most of my friends have parents who immigrated from China and they tend to work hard and try to do well in school, sometimes more so than classmates who have American parents,” Xi said.

When asked how the intragenerational success of children of parents born in America compares to the success of children of immigrant parents, guidance counselor Emanda Lenet echoes the findings of the aforementioned study.

“[Success between generations of children of parents born in America] is more steady. You just see there’s less upward mobility than with immigrants, there’s some, but it’s not as much,” Lenet said.

According to Sociologist Lingxin Hao, children of Asian immigrants have higher expectations, make a higher effort, and have better cultural tools which propel them to greater success than their non-immigrant counterparts.

Junior Ryan Choi, a child of South Korean immigrants, concurs that he is held to higher standard by his parents than most of his peers.

“My parents have always pushed me to do extra work and always try to be ahead in the class,” Choi said.

The Adolescent Health and Academic Achievement study found that the best students, based on grades and course difficulty, were born in other countries and came to the United States in their early teens.

Senior Pradyun Srinidhi, who was born in India and moved to America at an early age, is proof of the study’s findings as a high-achieving Advanced Placement student. He believes that academic success is his way of appreciating the sacrifices his parents made to give him a better life.

“My parents, like many other immigrants, had to start life from the ground up in the United States and struggled for quite some time.  My success is the least that I can do, so that in the future I can help give back to them in an increased capacity,” Srinidhi said.

Lenet has worked with students whose parents are immigrants and has noticed that immigrant students are excelling greatly regardless of socioeconomic standing or country of origin as they are all surpassing the level of education or career goals of their parents.

“I think that all immigrant students are doing better than the generation prior. It’s just proportional. I think that they’re all taking advantage of opportunities and doing better no matter what level you’re at. Everyone is doing better,” Lenet said.

Xi echoes the sentiment of being inspired by parents’ immigration to be successful in school, secure a bright future for themselves and take full advantage of the opportunities their parents never had.

“They worked so hard to provide me with a better life that I want to make sure their sacrifice was worth it,” Xi said.

This mentality is not limited to children of immigrants from Asia. Junior Sky Davila recently immigrated to America from Peru by way of her father’s job transfer and is determined to explore all the new doors that have been opened for her, starting with making her own money.

“I started working here. In Peru you can’t start working until you are 18 but here you get to have that sense of responsibility,” Davila said. “Here you have so much opportunity for school, work and clubs!”

Senior John Nyoro, a child of Kenyan immigrants, asserts that this phenomenon of immigrant success has been evident in his life.

“[The phenomenon] applies to me and my group of friends. I come from a country where they instill discipline and makes me who I am today,” Nyoro said. “Seeing what your parents go through makes you want to work harder than your peers.”

All immigrant stories are unique and all students are different, but Lenet describes the possible common thread phenomenon driving the success of the children of immigrants.

“I can say that students of immigrants feel pressure to do very well because their families moved here for them, for the opportunities,” Lenet said. “They want to take advantage of what their families have given up for them and to do well here.”