Over the past 50 years, the United States has experienced the second-largest wave of immigration in its history. As a result, the share of recent immigrants (either foreign-born or children of foreign-born) in public schools reached 23% in 2015, with concentrations over 70% in several school districts in high-immigration states. These trends have generated a policy debate about the effects of immigration on public education and the perceived costs that immigrants may impose on public schools, local governments, and educational outcomes of the U.S.-born student population.
Better understanding the causal effects of immigrants on native students is therefore critical to inform these policy debates, yet there are two factors that complicate any effort to reveal this link. First, immigrant students are not randomly assigned to schools, and are more likely to enroll in schools educating students from disadvantaged backgrounds.