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Dreaming in Spain: Parental Determinants of Immigrant Children's Ambition


  • Alejandro Portes

    (Princeton University)

  • Erik Vickstrom

    (Princeton University)

  • William Haller

    (Clemson University)

  • Rosa Aparicio

    (Instituto Iniversitario Ortega y Gasselt)


We examine determinants of educational and occupational aspirations and expectations among children of immigrants in Spain on the basis of a unique data set that includes statistically representative data for foreign-origin secondary students in Madrid and Barcelona plus a sample of one-fourth of their parents. Independently collected data for both generations allow us to establish effects of parental characteristics on childrens orientations without the confounding potential inherent on childrens reports about parents. We analyze first determinants of parental ambition and, through a series of step-wise regressions, the effects of these goals and other parental and family characteristics on childrens aspirations and expectations. A structural equations model synthesizes results of the analysis. The model confirms some predictions from the existing research literature, but rejects others. Parental goals, knowledge of Spanish, sex and childrens age relative to class year as shown to be the major determinants of childrens level of ambition. Implications for theory and policy are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Alejandro Portes & Erik Vickstrom & William Haller & Rosa Aparicio, 2011. "Dreaming in Spain: Parental Determinants of Immigrant Children's Ambition," Working Papers 1342, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Migration and Development..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:cmgdev:wp1102b-dreaming-in-spain-revised.pdf

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    Cited by:

    1. Carlos J. Gil-Hernández & Pablo Gracia, 2018. "Adolescents' educational aspirations and ethnic background: The case of students of African and Latin American migrant origins in Spain," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 38(23), pages 577-618.
    2. Raisa N. Akifyeva, 2015. "Children and Parents in the Migration Context: Dissonant or Consonant Trajectories," HSE Working papers WP BRP 103/HUM/2015, National Research University Higher School of Economics.

    More about this item


    aspirations; expectations; children of immigrants; adaptation; Spain;

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • I39 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Other
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education


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