Immigrant children get better qualifications but are less likely to find work

Children of ethnic minority immigrants do better in education than their white peers, but are less likely to get a job, a report has found.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said that second-generation ethnic minority adults who were born and brought up in the UK did better in the education system than the white majority despite less-advantaged economic backgrounds.

But the think tank said that this success did not lead to success in the labour market, with them less likely to be employed and some ethnic groups less likely to reach managerial or professional occupations than the white majority, the IFS added.

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A new report, published as part of the IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities on Tuesday, said it cannot be concluded that labour market deficits faced by people from ethnic minorities were explained by having less-advantaged family backgrounds because these do not hold them back in the education system.

One of the report’s authors, Lucinda Platt, a professor at the London School of Economics, said “hard questions” needed to be asked about why ethnic minorities’ success in education did not translate into equal success in the labour market.

Prof Platt, who is also a member of the panel overseeing the IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities, added: “The experiences of people from ethnic minorities who have grown up in the UK are different and complex.

“We should celebrate their remarkable success in education, but ask hard questions about why this does not translate into equal success in the world of work.

“Attempts to oversimplify by putting poorer labour market performance down solely to less-advantaged backgrounds on the one hand, or discrimination on the other, fail to recognise that both are relevant.

“To devise effective strategies for addressing ethnic inequalities in the UK, we need to not only improve opportunities for social mobility more generally, but also ensure that hard-won qualifications can be translated into success in work.”

The research used linked Census data covering a 40-year period to track outcomes across generations within families.

It found that second-generation ethnic minority adults were much more likely to come from a more disadvantaged background – measured by whether their parents were in professional or managerial jobs – compared with the white majority.

Only 16% of Indian, 7% of Pakistani, 5% of Bangladeshi and 14% of black Caribbean second-generation ethnic minorities who had reached adulthood by 2011 came from advantaged origins, compared with 29% of white British people.

But despite poorer family backgrounds, second-generation ethnic minorities were substantially more likely to achieve good qualifications.

More than 50% of Indians and 35% of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis have degree-level qualifications, compared with 26% of the white majority.

The IFS said that this might be due to their ethnic minority parents not being comparable to white British parents of the same occupational class.

It said that immigrants often experience an “occupational downgrade” when moving to another country so that those who arrive with significant skills or cultural and social resources may end up in similar occupations to white British people without those resources.

But the IFS said that in the labour market the position of ethnic minorities did not match what might be expected given the “typical rewards” associated with education.

Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black Caribbean second-generation men and women were all more likely to be highly educated than their white majority counterparts yet they were less likely to be employed in each case.