Published: January 23, 2019


In most countries where English is the main language, children of Asian immigrants do better at school than both children of native-born parents and children of immigrants not from Asia. A new Life Course Centre Working Paper is the first to explore whether differences in time use by children of Asian-born parents may help to explain this performance differential.

The authors use rich time-use diary information by two cohorts of Australian children observed over a decade to show that children of native-born parents and children of Asian immigrant parents spend their time very differently. They find that children of Asian immigrants begin spending more time than their peers on educational activities from around 6-7 years of age, and this gap in time allocated increases as students advance through their school years. The authors also use the results from numerous tests over an extended period of child development, 4-5 to 14-15 years of age, which show the growing differential in educational time mirrors the academic performance of children of Asian immigrants over time.

The paper’s results indicate that ethnicity disparities in initial cognitive abilities and time allocations explain a large part of the differences in academic performance. In contrast, ethnicity differences in other socioeconomic factors, such as parental marital status, education, income and parenting styles, explain very little of the test scores gap. The authors do not observe any significant differences in academic performance or time allocation between third-generation Asian immigrant children and their non-Asian peers, indicating that differentials tend to fade across generations.

This collaborative paper was authored by Ha Trong Nguyen, Francis Mitrou, Catherine Taylor and Stephen Zubrick of the Telethon Kids Institute in conjunction with Luke Connelly of the Centre for the Business and Economics of Health at the University of Queensland and Huong Thu Le of the School of Population and Global Health at the University of Western Australia.

You can read the full Working Paper here.