Issue 2/2012, 18. Volume Page 224–234
Raising educational expectations: A case in favor of bilingual language practices in migrant families
Adolescents with a migration background are characterized by significantly lower educational attainment rates than their peers without a migration background in most Western OECD countries. Most research explains this gap with reference to an unequal distribution of economic, social and cultural capital across social strata, which in turn leads to systematically lower levels of academic performance in the migrant population. In addition to these factors, bilingual language practices in migrant families have been claimed to be a major determinant of lower achievement and attainment due to negative effects on the acquisition of majority language skills. However, this claim has remained controversial as there is also evidence on the negative consequences of students’ loss of their heritage languages. We hypothesize that bilingual language practices can raise students’ educational aspirations and expectations due to their positive influence on parentadolescent interaction and a more effective transmission of parental aspirations. Estimating multivariate binary response models, we find that higher levels of parent-adolescent interaction are related to higher probabilities of expecting to complete high educational levels, and that monolingual language practices in migrant families may negatively influence students’ educational outcomes due to lower levels of parent-child interaction.