Is There an Immigrant Peer Effect? Classroom Composition and the Academic Performance of Native Chileans
Contreras Gomez, Rafael E
This thesis examines the impact of immigration on the educational outcomes of natives. More specifically, it estimates the relationship between the share of immigrant students in a classroom on the reading and mathematics test scores of native Chilean students in 4th and 10th grade in 2017 and 2018. The analysis is based on multiple data sources, including student enrollment data from the Chilean Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) and test results and parental questionnaires from SIMCE, the country’s system for student learning assessment. Accounting for a series of student and school characteristics, I find that adding an immigrant student to the average classroom in a Chilean school is associated with a reduction of native students’ reading and math test scores, of an average of one point, in a scale of 0-500. The mean impacts, however, mask substantial heterogeneity in the impact by grade, subject and gender. In essence, the disaggregated analysis shows that immigrant concentration in classrooms is more strongly associated with the academic performance of 10th (rather than 4th) grade students, particularly in math. This thesis is the only empirical study seeking to analyze the influence of the recent wave of immigration to Chile on the academic performance of native students. Moreover, this thesis contributes to the inclusion of a unique case study to a body of literature with a heavy focus on developed economies. Understanding whether there is, in fact, an “immigrant peer effect” can help Chile, and other developing countries facing similar challenges, to formulate informed and sensible policies to ensure that both native and immigrant students can thrive and contribute to society.
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