Better Fortunes? Living Arrangements and School Enrollment of Migrant Youth in Six Western Countries

November 2012
With Audrey Beck; Realizing the Potential of Immigrant Youth, ed. Ann Masten, Karmela Liebkind, and Donald Hernandez; Cambridge University Press

Educational attainment is a key indicator of assimilation that determines the likelihood of successful economic and social integration in adulthood (Portes and Rumbaut, 2006). Our substantive goal is to describe the living arrangements of migrant youth and to identify which arrangements and contexts of reception are most conducive to child wellbeing as measured by school enrollment. Specifically, we document cross-national variation in the living arrangements of youth with migration backgrounds in six Western countries—France, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Israel and the United States. By examining variation in the prevalence of parent absence and extended living arrangements as well as size and composition of households, we identify countries where immigrant youth face the most optimistic integration prospects. Methodologically, we also illustrate the need for a child-centric perspective that does not assume migrant children and youth live with their parents or in family households.