2 Theoretical framework
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Researchers working within the human-capital framework assert that highly educated parents have the financial and non-monetary resources to invest in their children's abilities early on, which inevitably places them on track not only for better school performance but also for the likelihood of pursuing a university education (Corak 2001). Heckman (2000) points to the centrality of family factors that accumulate over many years from early childhood through adolescence, which consequently produce the skills and expectations for university attendance. Those who have the lowest academic achievement are usually the ones whose parents possessed low levels of education and skills at the time of migration (Kao and Thompson 2003). Family socioeconomic status has been noted as a major influence in explaining the difference in high school drop-out rates and postsecondary achievement between Mexican Americans and Whites (Warren 1996), total number of years completed among the Filipinos and Cubans and lower university enrolment among Blacks, Cambodians and Mexicans (Rumbaut 2005). Immigration scholars also provide evidence that a bilingual background may provide immigrant children with the resources necessary to succeed in the educational system because it provides them with greater access to community networks and encourages effective communication with their parents (Glick and White 2003, White and Glick 2000).
Parental human capital, however, may not be enough to explain the resiliency of some ethnic effects—in particular, the educational advantage among some groups—suggesting that social capital in the family and the immigrant community also plays a salient role in accounting for these group differences. Coleman (1990) emphasizes the significance of intergenerational closure in tightly knit communities, where parents get to know other parents and children and share similar values, obligations and social supports that facilitate supervision and provide aspirations for young immigrants. The advantages among Asian Americans in the educational system have been attributed to a variety of social capital factors. For example, supplementary education and language schools, especially for the Chinese and Koreans, provide academic enrichment, teaching of family values and a place where co-ethnic ties are rebuilt, and where immigrants with varying levels of socioeconomic background come together (Zhou and Kim 2006). Parents who watch over other children in their own communities can be effective in discouraging delinquent behaviour among Vietnamese children (Zhou and Bankston 1998). Intact families also provide a tighter monitoring of children's activities, and strong family ties have been linked to academic achievement among Hispanics, despite coming from a disadvantaged socioeconomic status parental background (Valenzuela and Dornbusch 1994). As Zhou (1997) contends, the greater the involvement to one's community, and the tighter the ethnic community, the greater the conformity to the group's expectations, which in turn can help immigrants and their children overcome their structural disadvantages.
Ethnic solidarity, however, may not be sufficient to overcome the struggles of some immigrants. Beyond the human and social capital factors lie the different modes of incorporation of immigrant communities. These community differences are expected to have lasting effects on the integration of the children of immigrants (Portes and MacLeod 1999). Entrapment into the bottom of the economic stratum, noted among Mexican immigrants and other less skilled newcomers in the United States, imposes barriers for socioeconomic mobility among their offspring (Perlmann and Waldinger 1997). Discrimination encountered during childhood also creates difficulties for the second generation as they navigate through the educational system. These collective experiences facilitate a defeatist attitude, providing a reason to withdraw from
academic activities (Ogbu 1991). The experiences of African Americans with various forms of racism in mainstream institutions, including the educational system and the labour market, may provide a frame of reference for the children of immigrants to adopt a set of oppositional behaviours, further contributing to their path toward downward assimilation (Portes and Zhou 1993).
On the other hand, a minority's marginal status may heighten their youth's achievement orientations (Boyd and Grieco 1998). Researchers have linked the marginal status of Asian Americans in non-educational arenas, such as politics, sports and entertainment, as blocked opportunities that provide a reason to avert their disadvantages, by pursuing careers—for example, science and engineering—that are highly dependent on educational qualifications (Xie and Goyette 2003, Sue and Okazaki 1990).
These modes of incorporation indeed reflect the varying contexts of reception of the host society, and, for Canadian immigrants, these community differences are also expected to transcend individual and family characteristics (Portes and Rumbaut 1996). While some patterns may show similar trends to those of the United States—for example, the educational advantage of Asian groups—two caveats that bear on the ethnic inequality in the educational attainment of Canadian immigrants should be noted.
First, access to postsecondary education is more equitable in Canada than in the United States, in a sense that Canadian students in the bottom and the second income quartiles are equally likely to attend university (Frenette 2005). This gap is more pronounced among American students in the bottom income quartile with only 15%, but more than two times (32%) in the second income quartile enrolled in university. Differences are also more apparent for those at the top income quartile, with 63% of American students enrolled in university compared with 46% of Canadian students (Frenette 2005). While these observed differences indicate that university education is more equitable in Canada, at least for those from modest- and low-income families, we cannot ignore the different educational outcomes that may be observed among different immigrant communities.
The unique settlement experiences of various immigrant groups also provide insights into the divergent educational outcomes among the children of immigrants. The earlier wave of European immigrants to Canada, who were admitted mainly on the basis of national origin, settled largely in rural areas and generally had lower levels of education than immigrants who came since the 1970s and who were largely urban. The lower educational levels for these former groups also occurred at a time of numerous blue-collar jobs that did not require postsecondary credentials (Davies and Guppy 1998). These groups, who initially faced disadvantages in the labour market because of lower levels of education, have improved their earnings and occupational status (Hou and Balakrishnan 1996, Richmond 1990). Despite lower parental educational levels the assimilation of these groups provides an opportunity for advancement among the subsequent generation.
Immigrants faced with the points-system admissions criteria still encounter barriers, regardless of higher levels of educational attainment, with studies showing a significant disadvantage in the labour market especially for domestic and foreign-born Black males (Hum and Simpson 2000). Also, the immigrant women who arrived since the late 1970s under the Foreign Domestic Movement Program or Live-in Caregiver Program, as it is known now—notably from the
Caribbean and the Philippines—also face wage disadvantages and devaluation of foreign credentials, situating them near the bottom of the economic strata at the time of arrival (Kelly 2006, Simmons 1998).1 For visible minorities, especially for Blacks, the lower rate of return to schooling may hinder the progress of the children of immigrants.
Policies that focus on immigrants' human capital and that allowed for the admission of entrepreneurs, the self-employed and investors—specifically under the Business Immigration Program2—contributed to a large influx of affluent and/or highly educated immigrants, particularly from Hong Kong, China and India. The growth of immigrant enterprises and ethnic businesses, not only in Toronto and Vancouver but also in smaller urban areas, provide a site for the formation of social capital that Asians can turn to for support and social mobility (Li 2003). Hence, the children of these immigrants can benefit from the strength of these community resources and their family advantages, increasing their chances of success in the educational system (Portes and MacLeod 1999). These varying modes of reception raise the issue of whether stratification in educational attainment based on class and gender will be increasingly compounded by differences in ethnicity.
We examine the extent to which parental human capital, as measured by parental education and father's generation average educational level and income, mitigate the group differences in university educational attainment among children of immigrant parents. We hypothesize that groups with lower levels of education will mainly be accounted for by their parents' levels of education. Our data do contain sufficient measures to allow us to fully investigate the role played by social capital, ethnic community resources, and other potentially important factors.
In this study, we treat father's generation average educational level and income as a unique form of group-level human capital. Children's educational attainment does not depend entirely on their own parents' human capital but also on the average skills in the previous generation of the ethnic group (Borjas 1995). The main premise is that the immigrant group acts as an externality in the human-capital accumulation process. The average skill level of the immigrant group in the father's generation is critical in intergenerational mobility, and these differences in the levels of group human capital may retard the convergence of the average skills of ethnic groups across generations (Borjas 1994, 1992). Our study examines the impact of group-level human capital, as measured by the average percentage completing university degrees and the mean earnings for the father's generation, i.e., male immigrants aged 35 to 50 by country of birth from the 1991 Census.
We also examine the importance of the urban/rural residence of the father's generation. Rural and small town residence is associated with low levels of finishing university, because of difficulties of access to universities (Frenette 2004) and the lower demand for highly educated workers in rural areas (Bollman 1999). Some European-origin groups are highly concentrated in rural areas and small towns, and the difference in residential locations among the parents' generation may affect group differences in educational attainment.
1 The Foreign Domestic Movement Program was implemented in 1980 and replaced with the Live-in Caregiver Program in 1992. Work visas were issued under the conditions that caregivers were to reside in their employers' homes. Canada allows caregivers to apply for immigrant status after two years, provided that they have shown evidence of having developed language skills and employment credentials (Simmons 1998).
2 The Business Immigration Program allowed the admission of entrepreneurs who are required the establishment or purchase of a business in Canada intended to provide employment to Canadian citizens or permanent residents. In the mid-1980s the inclusion of the investor category required a net worth of at least $500,000 and to incur a business investment worth at least $250,000 (Li 2003).
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