The Effect of Immigrant Concentration at School on Natives’ Achievement: Does Length of Stay in the Host Country Matter?

Laurent Bossavie

World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 8492, June 2018


This paper examines the effects of immigrant concentration in the classroom on the academic achievement of natives in the Netherlands. Recognizing that the effect of immigrant concentration in the classroom likely depends on the duration of stay of immigrant students in the host country, it separately estimates the impact of foreign-born peers who recently arrived to the Netherlands from those who arrived in the country at an earlier age. The author finds:

  • Immigrant students who have been living in the country for a few years have no impact on natives’ test scores, in either mathematics or language.
  • Immigrant students who have been in the country for a short period have a small negative effect on natives’ performance in language, but no effect on mathematics test scores. An increase by one standard deviation in the share of recent migrants in the classroom is found to reduce natives’ average language test scores by 0.03 of a standard deviation. Individualized time spent by teachers to support recent immigrant students is the most plausible mechanism behind these findings.
  • Native students with high parental education are not affected by the concentration of immigrant classmates in their classroom, even if those are recent immigrants.
  • When significant, effect sizes are quite small compared to other educational interventions and classroom peer effects estimated in other contexts.

These results suggest that assimilation and host country language acquisition play a role in the magnitude of the peer effects generated. That negative spillovers are small and short-lived suggests that putting in place integration programs for recently arrived migrant students could be sufficient to offset those effects, with a particular focus on host language acquisition.