The Effects of Foreign-Born Peers in US High Schools and Middle Schools


Fletcher, Jason; Kim, Jinho; Nobles, Jenna; Ross, Stephen; & Shaorshadze, Irina (2019). The Effects of Foreign-Born Peers in US High Schools and Middle Schools. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series.


The multi-decade growth and spatial dispersion of immigrant families in the United States has shiftedthe composition of US schools, reshaping the group of peers with whom students age through adolescence.US-born students are more likely to have foreign-born peers and foreign-born students are more likelyto be educated outside of enclaves. This study examines the short-term and long-term impact of beingeducated with immigrant peers, for both US-born and foreign-born students. We leverage a quasi-experimentalresearch design that uses across-grade, within-school variation in cohort composition for students inthe Add Health study. We describe effects on a broad set of education, social, and health outcomes.For US-born students, we find little evidence that having immigrant peers affects a wide array of outcomes,either in adolescence or in adulthood. For foreign-born students, attending school with other immigrantstudents is protective against risky health behaviors and social isolation, relative to native born students.However, foreign-born students’ language skills measured with Picture-Vocabulary Test scores arenegatively affected by attending school with a larger share of other immigrant students. The negativeeffect on vocabulary scores persists through young adulthood but does not translate into reductionsin most longer-run socioeconomic outcomes, including earnings or the economic status of their residential neighborhoods.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series


Fletcher, Jason
Kim, Jinho
Nobles, Jenna
Ross, Stephen
Shaorshadze, Irina

Year Published




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