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Immigrants Succeed, Thanks to Public Schools

A new RAND study shows that Hispanic immigrants to the United States and their children move up the economic and educational ladder just as quickly as European immigrants did generations earlier. As with previous generations, the newest wave of immigrants relies upon the same key resource to get ahead: America’s public school system. "A lot of the success we have seen from immigrant groups is because of the strong American school system," said James P. Smith, a RAND economist. The Long Beach Unified School District is one of the top five national finalists for the Broad Prize because it has closed the achievement gap among ethnic and immigrant groups. "When people first come to live in America, one of the first places they go is to school," said Long Beach’s Beverly O’Neill, mayor of the most diverse large city in the United States. She joined Broad’s team of evaluators during visits to Long Beach schools this week. The RAND study reported that generational improvements exist for all Hispanics combined. The improvements also characterize the most numerically important Hispanic group – those from Mexico. In public schools, the descendants of immigrants from Mexico and other Hispanic nations complete substantially more schooling and have higher incomes than the generation before, according to RAND’s article in the May edition of the American Economic Review, the most prestigious and widely read scientific journal in economics.