The Language Assimilation and Schooling Outcomes of Children Born to African Immigrant Parents

Awarded Scholars:
Kevin Thomas, Pennsylvania State University
Project Date:
Oct 2008
Award Amount:
Project Programs:

Despite a dramatic rise in the number of African immigrants in the last fifteen years, there have been only a handful of studies of African immigrant adults, and none of these has addressed outcomes for African immigrant children. With support from Russell Sage Foundation, sociologist and demographer Kevin Thomas will study the language and schooling outcomes for children aged 10-19 who have African immigrant parents. He will examine how age of arrival in the United States, the language of the parents’ country of origin, parental English proficiency, and use of language in the home impacts linguistic assimilation. Conventional wisdom holds that black African immigrants will begin to see more negative educational outcomes than white African immigrants as their tenure in the United States increases. By contrasting outcomes for both black and white African immigrant children, Thomas will bring new evidence to bear on the claim that the longer immigrants live in the United States the more their educational outcomes will mirror the racial divisions of the general population.


For this project, Thomas will use a 5 percent sample of the 2000 U.S. Census data. The data will allow him to access information on each family’s country of origin and time in the United States, income, and family composition. To identify English proficiency, Thomas will rely on parents’ self-ratings in response to a question on how well they speak English. To measure levels of educational integration, he will measure each child’s likelihood of dropping out of school.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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