Motivation and Triumphant Transition: Children of Chinese Immigrants in Hong Kong, 1991-2006

by Zhuoni Zhang Division of Social Science, HKUST

Abstract This paper studies educational, occupational, and earnings attainment of Chinese immigrants’ children in Hong Kong compared to natives’ children. Using a series of census and by-census data from 1991 to 2006 and Social Inequality and Social Mobility Survey data from 2006, results show that children of Chinese immigrants surpass children of natives in educational, occupational, and earnings attainment although their parents are in disadvantaged positions in Hong. They are more likely to be enrolled in pre-tertiary and tertiary schools, have more years of schooling, are more likely to be employed as whitecollar workers and earn more than children of native-born parents. Also, the gap between Chinese immigrants’ offspring and natives’ children in tertiary school enrollment decreases as their parental education or parental occupation increases. These results not only confirm the optimism hypothesis of a second immigrant generation, but also provide an alternative explanation for the success of the children of immigrants. Given a lack of cultural and ethnic differentials, it is not a matter of the cultural valuation of education or successoriented cultural values, but the motivation of upward mobility resulting from parental immigrant status, especially from low socioeconomic status that leads to the success of children of Chinese immigrants in Hong Kong. Bio Dr. Zhuoni Zhang is a visiting scholar in the Division of Social Science at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology.