Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Disorders & Special Education


Early Childhood Education

Committee Director

Stephen W. Tonelson

Committee Member

John A. Nunnery

Committee Member

William Owings


This study compared immigrant and nonimmigrant educational achievement (i.e., the immigrant gap) in math and reading by reexamining the explanatory power of race and socio-economic status (SES)—two variables, perhaps, most commonly considered in educational research and policy formation. Four research questions were explored through growth curve modeling, factor analysis, and regression analysis based on a sample of participants in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort of 1998 (ECLS-K) from kindergarten to eighth grade (N = 6,861). Findings indicated that immigrant students who had been in the United States since at least their preschool years had lower math and reading achievement than nonimmigrants when they began kindergarten. In both achievement areas, 1.75-generation students caught up to their nonimmigrant counterparts, but second-generation students did not. Additionally, nationality played a greater role in determining immigrant performance than did race. Furthermore, educational selectivity had explanatory power with regard to math outcomes in (a) accounting for gaps between immigrant and nonimmigrant achievement, (b) accounting for racial gaps in achievement among both 1.75- and second-generation immigrants, (c) accounting directly for achievement among 1.75-immigrants, and (d) moderating the explanatory power of SES among both 1.75- and second-generation immigrants. Finally, mother's educational selectivity was positively associated with both parental involvement and center-based early childhood education, but not with parental warmth, relative care, nonrelative care, or participation in Head Start—independent of whether children were 1.75- or second-generation immigrants.