Zerrin Salikutluk
Immigrants’ Aspiration Paradox: Theoretical Explanations and Determinants of the Aspiration Gap between Native and Immigrant Students

Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung: Arbeitspapiere; 150
ISSN: 1437-8574

Educational degrees are crucial predictors for the socio economic positioning of individuals. Educational aspirations can help to explain individual differences in educational decisions evoking long-term consequences for the academic future and chances on the labour market. Generally aspirations are based on past academic achievement and families’ endowment with resources needed to reach targeted educational levels. But, albeit performing worse at school and holding lower social status, some immigrant groups tend to express higher educational ambitions than natives. Compared to the majority group, first generation immigrants – and their descendants as well – seem to be more resistant towards familial or institutional restrictions.
The aim of this paper is to discuss possible reasons drawn from different theoretical argumentations to disentangle this aspiration-achievement paradox. To test the explanatory power of these theoretical approaches data from the project “Young Immigrants in the German and Israeli Educational Systems” including families from Turkey and the former Soviet Union are used.
The results indicate that the paradox does not apply to students from the former Soviet Union and that various factors have to be considered to solve Turkish minorities’ paradoxical relation between educational ambitions and performances. While native students’ aspiration patterns can mainly be explained by their parents’ education and their school achievement, an unexplained gap between native and Turkish students appears after controlling for indicators of social background and academic abilities. Thus, it is necessary to analyse differences in the factors determining the level of aspirations. The findings show that the long-term benefits of high educational degrees are valued higher by minority students than by natives. Attaining higher education to overcome structural barriers appears to be the main difference of Turks compared to the other groups. However, except for the assumption of missing information about the requirements of the educational system, all other theoretical explanations seem to contribute to the solution of the puzzle.