Better schools or different students? The impact of immigration reform on school-level student achievement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study examines the consequences of two controversial Arizona immigration laws, the Legal Arizona Workers Act and SB 1070, on school enrollment and student achievement trends. In the period after implementation of both policies, Arizona public schools have demonstrated growth in student achievement on standardized tests arguably due to the state education policies. We propose an alternative explanation and show that the observed achievement gains in schools resulted both due to academic improvement and partially because of the attrition of the low achieving students from certain type of schools. Using data from Arizona public schools we find that after the immigration laws were enacted, schools with initially higher shares of Hispanic students lost about 42 more Hispanic students on average and at the same time experienced greater increase in average test scores compared to schools with initially low Hispanic enrollment. We argue that changes in average test scores partially reflected the changes in school demographic composition as a result of the implementation of restrictive immigration policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Science Journal
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • Education
  • Hispanic/Latino immigrants
  • Immigration policy
  • Student achievement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this