Lead author Suet-ling Pong, professor of education and sociology at the Pennsylvania State University, arrived at their conclusion after analyzing data on immigrant parents from the New Immigrant Survey, a longitudinal and nationally representative study of legal immigrants.
To measure academic achievement, the researchers used scores from Woodcock Johnson III tests given as part of the New Immigrant Survey to more than 2,100 children ages 6-12 whose parents were included in the study.
The study, published in a special section of the journal Child Development, found the education, work status and occupation of immigrant parents accounted fully for the test score disadvantage of Mexican-origin children of legal immigrants compared to non-Latino children of legal immigrants.
A family's socioeconomic status before migrating contributed significantly to its socioeconomic status after migrating, but in different ways for different groups of immigrants, Pong said.
Specifically, immigrant parents who previously held higher-status occupations tend to find
lower-status jobs after coming to the United States, while those who were previously unemployed are able to find jobs after migration.
"Our research reveals important aspects of continuity between immigrants' pre- and post-migration resources," Pong said in a statement. "Even after the transformative event of immigration, family social privilege or disadvantage often persists and is transmitted to subsequent generations."