Beyond Good Grades: Immigrant Integration in U.S. Schools through Participation in Extracurricular Activities

Document Type

Article - Merrimack Access Only

Publication Title

Social Science Research

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

Past research has typically focused on educational attainment and achievement to understand the assimilation process for immigrant youth. However, academic achievement constitutes only part of the schooling experience. In this paper, we move beyond traditional measures such as test scores and dropout, and examine patterns of school-sponsored extracurricular activity participation. Analyzing data from Add Health and drawing upon the frog-pond and segmented assimilation frameworks, we find that immigrant minority youth are disadvantaged in regards to activity participation relative to the average student in high- compared to low-SES schools. In high-SES schools, immigrant youth are less similar to their peers in terms of socioeconomic, race, and immigrant status, and as suggested by the frog-pond hypothesis, social comparison and ranking processes contribute to lower levels of social integration of immigrant youth into the school setting. We also find that as percent minority rises in high-SES schools, participation increases as well. The opposite pattern appears in low-SES schools: when percent minority increases, activity participation among immigrant minority students declines. These results are commensurate with both theoretical frameworks, and suggest that different mechanisms are at work in high- and low-SES schools. However, the effects of minority peers do not seem to hold for sports participation, and we also find that percent immigrant operates differently from percent minority, depressing the probability of activity participation across both high- and low-SES schools. The main implication of our results is that racially diverse, higher-SES schools are the most favorable contexts for the social integration of immigrant minority youth as well as third- and later-generation blacks and Hispanics.