Bilingualism and Educational Expectations, College Access and Success of Youth from Immigrant Families: A Test of Segmented Assimilation Theory

Magarati, Ratna M. 2010. "Bilingualism and Educational Expectations, College Access and Success of Youth from Immigrant Families: A Test of Segmented Assimilation Theory." PhD Dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Washington.

Committee: 
Charles Hirschman (Chair), Jon Wakefield (GSR), Lowell Hargens, William Lavely, Stewart Tolnay.

Using the University of Washington Beyond High School survey data, I examine determinants of language proficiency and its consequences on a variety of social- psychological and socioeconomic adaptation outcomes. In particular, I explore whether fluent bilingualism--proficiency in both minority home language and English--provides an adaptation advantage to the children of the post-1960 immigrants in terms of educational aspirations, expectations, college enrollment and graduation, compared to their English- monolingual or limited-bilingual peers. The results indicate that high school seniors from homes in which a second language is spoken prefer English over the parental language and that a shift to the dominant use of English by the third generation appears to be occurring. However, a quarter of those seniors maintain some proficiency in the minority home language. Proficiency rates vary by minority language group, but one in four youths from dual-language homes is fluently bilingual. Length of residence in the United States, measured as generational status, largely determines proficiency in minority home language, English and fluent bilingualism. Family social background and family structure are only weakly associated with language proficiency. However, family social background is a strong predictor of educational aspirations and attainment. Korean- and Vietnamese-speaking seniors not only report higher educational ambitions but also enroll in and graduate from a four-year college at higher rates than Spanish, Khmer- and Russian- speaking seniors. Spanish speakers appear to the most disadvantaged in terms of graduating from college Fluently bilingual youths hold higher educational aspirations and expectations than their English monolingual peers when family social background, family structure and generational status are controlled and are also more likely to attend a four-year college. However, fluent bilingualism does not provide an advantage in graduating from a four-year college.