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Indicator 10. Reading Achievement by Immigrant Status

In all G-8 countries with data reported except Canada (where scores were not measurably different), 15-year-old students with an immigrant background scored lower, on average, on the PISA 2009 reading literacy scale than their native peers.

Using data from PISA, this indicator compares 15-year-old students' reading achievement by immigrant status across the G-8 countries. PISA asked 15-year-olds to report whether they were native (born in the country of assessment or with at least one parent born in the country of assessment), had a second generation immigrant background (born in the country of assessment, but with parents born in another country), or first generation immigrant background (born in another country and with parents born in another country).11 In this analysis, students with an immigrant background included those who reported either a second- or first-generation immigrant background as defined in PISA.

In 2009, the percentage of 15-year-old students with an immigrant background was highest in Canada (24 percent), followed by the United States (19 percent) and Germany (18 percent) (figure 10-1). In half of the G-8 countries, a larger percentage of students in 2009 than in 2000 reported an immigrant background: the Russian Federation (8 percentage points higher in 2009), the United States (6 percentage points), Italy (5 percentage points), and Canada (4 percentage points).

In all G-8 countries except Canada (and Japan, which had too few sampled immigrants to report a comparison), 15-year-old students with an immigrant background scored lower, on average, on the PISA 2009 reading literacy scale than their native peers (figure 10-2). Excluding Canada (where scores were not measur- ably different) and Japan, score differences in 2009 ranged from
22 points in the United States to 72 points in Italy.

A similar pattern occurred in 2000: Fifteen-year-old students with an immigrant background scored lower, on average, on the PISA 2000 reading literacy scale than their native peers in every G-8 country except the Russian Federation (with no measurable difference) and Japan (too few immigrant students sampled to compare).12

In Germany, the difference in reading performance between students with an immigrant background and their native peers was smaller in 2009 than in 2000 (by 28 score points), while in Italy the gap in performance was larger in 2009 than in 2000 (by 33 score points). In no other G-8 country with data reported was there a measurable change in the performance difference between immigrant students and native students from 2000 to 2009.

Definitions and Methodology

For information about how reading literacy is defined in the Program
for International Assessment (PISA) and for more information about the reporting scales used in PISA and the measurement of change, see the Definitions and Methodology section of indicator 8.

In PISA, “15-year-olds” refers to students who are between 15 years and 3 months old and 16 years and 2 months old at the at the time of the assessment and who have completed at least 6 years of formal schooling. Students were tested in the language of instruction used in their school. Multilingual countries developed as many versions of the test instruments as there were languages of instruction used in the schools included in their national sample.

The computations presented in the text were carried out using unrounded numbers; therefore, they may differ from computations made using the rounded numbers that appear in figure 10-2.

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11 PISA was not specifically designed to sample populations of immigrant and nonimmigrant students. Rather, it was designed to represent general populations of 15-year-old students in national school systems (which typically include both immigrant and nonimmigrant students), and students with insufficient language experience could be excluded from participating. Because of this, the results from PISA may differ from the results of studies that have immigrant and nonimmigrant students as target populations. See the Definitions and Methodology section of this indicator for more information about PISA sampling and administration, including exclusions.
12 Although the United Kingdom participated in PISA in 2000, low response rates prevent its results from being included.