Ethnic Networks and Educational Achievement over the Life Course

Research question/goal: 

The role of ethnic networks for the structural integration of immigrants’ children is of crucial importance for integration strategies and policies. The issue is, however, under heavy scientific dispute. While some scholars reason that reliance on ethnic ties constrains the advancement of young immigrants, others argue that ties to co-ethnics can compensate for structural disadvantage. Empirically, there is evidence for both kinds of arguments, referring not only to rather diverse immigrant groups in diverse receiving countries, but also to very different steps within educational careers; whether ethnic networks have positive or negative effects seems to depend, amongst others, heavily on the life-course.

This project aims to integrate these seemingly conflicting views by means of a more comprehensive model of intergenerational integration across the life-span. Our theoretical starting points are social capital theory, on the one hand, and the model of frame-selection (MFS), on the other hand, that overcomes limits of standard Rational-Choice-Theories by emphasizing the role of cultural norms and values. Our aim is to explain why the precise role of ethnic networks depends crucially on specific characteristics of immigrant groups, on a specific stage of educational careers, and on specific indicators of educational success.

To test respective hypotheses we will rely on data from the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS) that provide a unique chance to test particular hypotheses, as it contains rich information on ethnic networks and social capital of children and their parents at several educational stages.

Current stage: 

In 2014, we used data of NEPS cohort 6 (lifelong learning) to specify the mechanisms underlying negative effects of ethnic network composition on both the duration of unemployment and on participation in further education. We also examined the role of ethnic networks in generating ethnic disparities in educational achievement and attainment using NEPS cohorts 3 (class 5) and 4 (class 9). We presented further analyses at international conferences and have published results in peer-review and other journals as well as in the MZES working paper series.

Fact sheet

2012 to 2016
Data Sources: 
Secondary Data Analysis, National Educational Panel Study
Geographic Space: