Cross-nationally comparative research on racial and ethnic skill disparities: Questions, findings, and pitfalls

Alexander Dicks, Jaap Dronkers, Mark Levels

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


In this chapter we offer a systematic review of cross-national research that uses direct assessment data of skills to study racial and ethnic skill disparities between 2000 and 2017. We identify four research questions, focussing on (1) individual predictors, (2) school-level predictors, (3) predictors related to the contexts of reception/destination countries, and (4) predictors related to origin countries/ethnicity. This research focuses on predicting how immigrant children and the children of immigrants achieve on direct tests of skills administered in large scale, cross-national assessment data (e.g. Pisa). While research on individual predictors and school characteristics remains important in cross-national comparisons, the most innovative contributions to the literature arguably focus on explaining destination and origin country differences. In cross-national comparisons, research questions move away from comparing distinct groups of immigrants, and towards characteristics of origin and destination countries. This literature relies on quantitative research methods (most notably multilevel analyses) and takes a positivistic approach to the social sciences. Research is published mostly in international journals, and written in english. The research is mostly done independent of national governments. However, policy-makers in various countries have demonstrated to attach great value to international rankings of countries’ performance on achievement tests. As such, findings in this literature will be of great importance to governments.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave handbook of race and ethnic inequalities in education
EditorsPeter A.J. Stevens, A. Gary Dworkin
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-94723-5
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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