The proposed study will examine the development of non-cognitive skills during elementary school among children of Latin American immigrants. Non-cognitive skills, which encompass a variety of emotional, behavioral, and personality traits, are related to key indicators of child and adult well-being. Thus, understanding group differences in non-cognitive skills may shed light on educational and health disparities. Children of Latin American immigrants now comprise nearly 14% of American children under 18. The health and educational prospects of these children are thus of substantial public policy concern. Previous research has shown that Latino children of immigrants differ from native children at school entry in terms of both cognitive skills and non-cognitive skills, but the role of non-cognitive skills in their educational outcomes has yet to be systematically examined. Such skills may be an important determinant of incorporation trajectories of Latino and other contemporary immigrant groups. This research will fill several significant gaps in the current knowledge. First, although the growth rate of non-cognitive skills varies during childhood, the most previous research examining inter-group differences in non-cognitive skills has focused on comparisons at a single time point. The proposed research will take a longitudinal approach to measuring non-cognitive skill development from grades K-8. Second, little is known about the predictors of non-cognitive skills among Latino immigrants'children and how they compare to those of natives'children. While we know that Latino immigrant families differ from the native population in certain critical factors, such as the use of early childcare and parental education-related practices, such differences have yet to be studied in relation to the development of non-cognitive skills. Third, the contributions of non-cognitive skills to differences in academic achievement between Latino immigrants'and natives'children have yet to be studied. This project will analyze data from the ECLS-K to address 3 specific aims: (1) To describe differences in non-cognitive skills between Latino children of immigrants and three native comparison groups, at different points in time during the elementary school years;(2) To identify correlates of non-cognitive skill development for children of Latino immigrants and compare their predictive power with native comparison groups;and (3) To examine the contribution of non-cognitive skills to gaps in educational achievement between Latino immigrant students and native comparison groups.
The health and educational prospects of Latino immigrants'children are of substantial public policy concern due to the large size and low average socioeconomic status of this group. Non-cognitive skills are related to health outcomes because they directly impact health behaviors and because they affect educational attainment, a key predictor of health disparities. Understanding the unique trajectories and determinants of non-cognitive skills among Latino immigrants'children will help policymakers promote greater health and educational achievement for this group.