When the Children of Migrants go to School: Educational Pathways and their determinants in Switzerland

In Switzerland, the educational attainment and educational trajectories of children differ greatly according to migrant status and ethnic origin. These differences are shown to be resistant to controls for the socioeconomic status of parents. We take a longitudinal perspective to investigate a) how educational pathways differ among children of migrants and non-migrants; b) which educational pathway is more likely to produce higher rather than lower educational attainments and c) the reasons why certain ethnic groups engage in educational paths that lead to lower-value certifications (or none) instead of tertiary education. We rely on both quantitative and qualitative data sources to address these issues. First, we draw on the longitudinal data base ‘Transition from school to employment’ (TREE) to study the differential distribution in educational pathways by ethnic origin through sequence analysis of post-compulsory educational paths. Second, we analyze 50 biographical interviews with children of migrants of a particularly disadvantaged ethnic group, Albanian-speakers from the Balkan region, to identify principal determinants of educational pathways. The findings indicate the important effect of an early-tracking system, the importance of individual educational aspirations, and the influence of parents and family members on educational pathways and outcomes.