Dreaming in Spain: Parental determinants of immigrant children's ambition

Alejandro Portes, Erik Vickstrom, William J. Haller, Rosa Aparicio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We examine determinants of educational and occupational aspirations and expectations among children of immigrants in Spain on the basis of a unique data set that includes statistically representative data for foreign-origin secondary students in Madrid and Barcelona plus a sample of one-fourth of their parents. Independently collected data for both generations allow us to establish effects of parental characteristics on children's orientations without the confounding potential inherent in children's reports about parents. We analyse first determinants of parental ambition and, through a series of stepwise regressions, the effects of these goals and other parental and family characteristics on children's aspirations and expectations. A structural equations model synthesizes the results of the analysis. The model confirms predictions from the research literature, especially those based on the Wisconsin status attainment model, but rejects others, including the predicted significance of private versus public school attendance. Parental ambition, knowledge of Spanish by parents and children, gender and children's age are major determinants of youths' educational and occupational goals. These results have direct implications for policy; these are discussed in the conclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-589
Number of pages33
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • adaptation
  • Aspirations
  • children of immigrants
  • expectations
  • Spain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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