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Patterns of educational achievement among groups of immigrant children in Denmark emerge already in preschool second-language and pre-literacy skills

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Immigrant children in Denmark differ greatly in educational outcomes. This study examined whether systematic differences in majority language (L2) and preliteracy skills are apparent already at ages 2-6 in immigrant children in Denmark across regional immigration background. Danish language and preliteracy skills in 1,211 immigrant children in four regional groups (based on maternal origin) and 11,259 native Danish nonimmigrant children, all enrolled in Danish childcare centers, were assessed using an age- and gender-normed language assessment instrument. Hierarchical linear models showed that all four immigrant groups scored significantly lower than the native Danish group; the negative coefficients diminished but remained significant when socioeconomic background and having a native Danish father were controlled for. In addition, even with these controls, significant differences existed between some of the immigrant groups, suggesting that factors relating to regional immigrant background were important sources of differences in L2 development. A greater immigrant disadvantage for language than preliteracy skills was found; two immigrant groups did not differ significantly from the nonimmigrant Danish group for preliteracy skills. The results suggest that measures to reduce inequalities in long-term educational achievement between immigrant groups should be taken already before school with a particular focus on L2 language skills.

Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Psycholinguistics
Pages (from-to)853-875
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

    Research areas

  • bilingual children, immigrant children, majority language skills, preliteracy skills, school readiness

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