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Code # 18-64-814 Capturing language diversity in quantitative studies: new methodological approaches

Abstract The present paper intends to provide an overview of commonly used concepts of data collection in empirical educational research focusing on achievement differences between students with and without a migration background. Several operationalizations of language use and language competence, as well as of the concept migration background itself will be outlined and discussed with respect to their challenges and limitations. Furthermore, an empirical study on the variation in results using different operationalizations will be provided.

Keywords: migration background, language use, quantitative research, multivariate analysis

1. Introduction A considerable number of school performance studies has repeatedly found evidence for the significantly poorer results of students with a migration background in most European countries in several educational areas (OECD 2010; Bos et al. 2009). Specifically, these disparities exist with respect to both language-related tests (such as reading-comprehension in the PISA-Study, see OECD 2010) and natural sciences or mathematics (for example in the TIMSS Study, see Bos et al. 2009). Furthermore, disadvantages seem to grow cumulatively throughout the school career. An aspect that is increasingly referred to in the quantitative operationalization of the concept of migration background is related to the language use within the families. The new migration phenomena since the end of the Cold War, brought about by increasing globalization movements and characterized by an intensification of migration typologies (in terms of countries of origin, language use, ethnicity and religion, as well as of motives, patterns and itineraries of migration, processes of integration into host communities, etc.), has exerted a strong effect on the complexity of language practices among the migrant population. This diversification of diversity (Martiniello 2004) has been defined under the umbrella-concept of super-diversity (Vertovec 2007). Whereas sociolinguistic studies call for a more complex and encompassing description and understanding of what has been called super-diverse language repertoires of migrants (Blommaert & Rampton 2011), most large-scale studies use few simplified variables to gather data about language use within migrant families. Against this backdrop, this paper tackles the issue of capturing complex forms of linguistic super-diversity and aims at giving an overview of language-related explanations for the educational gap between students with and without a migration backgorund (section 1), focusing on the consequences of migration-induced linguistic super-diversity for data collection in quantitative empirical studies (section 2). Based on an empirical study of 273 9 and 10 graders in Hamburg, Germany, we address the question of whether and to what extent different operationalizations of family language use and the choice of reference groups in multivariate analyses may matter in terms
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of conclusions that are drawn with respect to the impact of family language practices on students majority language competence.

2. Explaining the educational gap: consequences for research Generally speaking, it is reasonable to expect an educational system to play an important improving role with respect to new migration-induced forms of super-diversity. Yet, achievement studies of students of linguistic minority backgrounds do not make reassuring reading. Contrarily, indicators generally held to be appropriate benchmarks for educational systems suggest that European educational systems are falling short of reasonable targets with respect to their linguistic minority populations. Even when socioeconomic status and parental educational background are controlled for, a disproportionately high amount of students born outside the country of residence or whose parents were born abroad fail to reach levels of reading, mathematical or science literacy that are comparable to those achieved by their native peers. Thus, addressing aspects leading to the achievement gap entails at the same time addressing issues of social justice and equity in education and society. Several attempts have been made to grasp the gap by isolating and analyzing specific aspects leading to educational disparities. As a consequence, a considerable amount of studies has focused on characteristics of the migrant groups themselves, such as their social, religious or cultural background which has consistently been shown to differ from that of natives. However, the disadvantages of students from migrant families cannot be satisfactorily explained by the assumption that their cultural or religious predispositions do not match the expectations of the schools or by the comparatively poor socio-economic situation of their families in empirical studies (Diefenbach 2010). Another set of studies has attempted to describe legal and political measures leading to better or worse school results (see Gorard & Smith 2004 for a comparison of equity issues). For example, Canada is a multilingual nation by definition and has immigration laws and acculturation strategies that differ from those of officially monolingual countries, so that empirical results are necessarily different from those in other contexts. However, although many policies and measures have been adopted from successful PISA countries, for instance, most legal and political features of educational systems cannot easily be transferred to another context and if so, do not necessarily guarantee higher educational outcomes. In addition, many researchers have conducted sociological studies based on Bourdieus theory of class distinction (Bourdieu 1991). Bourdieu theorizes that class fractions are determined by a combination of varying degrees of social, economic, and cultural capital across the population. He emphasizes the dominance of cultural capital early on by stating that differences in cultural capital mark the differences between classes. This perspective would imply that societies reproduce inequalities across time, and that those occupying lower positions within a society pass on their position to their children. However, when controlling for differences in capital endowments, significant differences are consistently found to remain with respect to the educational performance of students with and without a migration background (Diefenbach 2010). The fourth set of factors identified as a possible cause for educational inequalities is related to several systemic aspects of teaching and learning. For example, the fact that an educational system has a monolingual self-understanding although its population is largely multilingual is one of the subtle mechanisms leading to educational failure (see the concept of the monolingual Habitus in

Gogolin 1994). Migrant languages are thus often seen as an obstacle to the learning of the language of the host society rather than as a valuable instrument in the acquisition of other languages. It has also been shown that institutional discrimination mechanisms within educational systems, such as the early tracking of students, affect migrants more often than their monolingual peers (Gomolla & Radtke 2002). Furthermore, research has shown that the linguistic register used at school is often inaccessible for second language learners and is not explicitly taught (Gogolin & Lange 2010). Another major factor of educational differentiation is immigrant generational status. In almost all contexts, the second generation tends to outperform the first (OECD 2006). Some second-generation groups have been found to even outperform native-born students (Chiswick & DebBurman 2004). Contrarily, other groups show restricted progress across generations: a well-known example in the literature is the experience of Mexican descendants in the United States (Telles & Ortiz 2008). Most empirical studies agree with respect to the evident influence of family characteristics in accounting for extensive parts of educational disparities, though there are significant variations across countries (Heath, Rothon, and Kilpi 2008). Research on equity in educational opportunities usually operationalizes family background in the form of variables such as parental occupational and educational level. However, socioeconomic background is equally associated with an ample range of other family features with (partially reciprocal) effects that are not easily distinguishable from one another. For example, low socioeconomic status has been linked to weak family structures (McLanahan & Percheski 2008) as well as to reduced cognitively stimulating resources in the home environment (Lahaie 2008). While measures of parental education tackle some of the cultural factors relevant for childrens educational success in general, other aspects seem to play a more crucial role within the scope of families with a migration background. Theoretically, language competencies denote one of the most important types of human capital characteristics of immigrant families and have been considered a central predictor for educational attainment (Esser 2006). However, in practical terms, and especially in educational contexts, it is often the case that the languages of migrants are perceived as a threat to the monolingual self-understanding of most European nation-states (Gogolin 2002). Boudons (1974) distinction of primary and secondary effects which originally aimed to explain differences in educational outcomes across social strata has gained increasing attention in attempts to explain educational disparities between natives and students with a migration background. While the former refer to conditions which affect students probability of educational success, such as capital endowments, the latter refer to systematically different educational decisions which result from the familys social position in society. This concept has been extended to explain differences in educational outcomes between natives and immigrant-background students and is discussed in terms of primary and secondary effects of ethnic origin (e.g. Heath & Brinbaum 2007; Kristen & Dollmann 2010), referring to factors that influence students probability of success and their educational decisions which are specific to the migration situation. In this context, both majority language competences and the factors that are thought to influence these competences, such as family language use, have been identified as central predictors of students probability of success in terms of primary effects of ethnic origin (e.g. OECD 2010). In general, a need for multi-level approaches (i.e. involving the educational system, the school, the community, the classroom and the individual level) in tackling the achievement gap has been repeatedly expressed (OECD 2004). Furthermore, not many studies have the capacity to focus both on interaction effects and on reciprocal or cumulative effects over time of several aspects leading to

disparities in school outcomes. However, before starting to design complex empirical studies, it is necessary to reflect on the operationalization of the above-mentioned crucial aspects which may trigger performance differences between students with and without migration background: the familys socioeconomic background, migration background and language use. Specifically, we argue that results with respect to the impact of language use on language competences considerably vary depending on the concrete operationalization of these variables, in particular in large-scale studies with a limited amount of items to define very complex concepts and practices. Forms of linguistic super-diversity thus seem to make existing instruments for data collection rapidly obsolete, and currently used operationalizations for family language use should be carefully used and results should be critically interpreted.

3. Linguistic super-diversity: consequences for research The past two decades, more concretely the period since the early 1990s, have been marked by a rise both in the amount and complexity of migration flows worldwide. It is estimated that there are approximately 214 million migrants worldwide at present (Vertovec 2009, UN-DESA 2008). When compared to the identifiable migrants of the 1950s to the 1970s, current migrant groups are smaller in numbers, more mobile, socially more stratified and their legal status is more differentiated. The term super-diversity has been used to designate these global changes in migration flows and forms which have occurred in the past twenty years (Vertovec 2006). An ethnicity-based approach (for example the Turks or the Somalis) to understanding minority groups, as applied in many models, thus seems insufficient and inappropriate. Yet, a methodological obstacle for planning research within super-diverse contexts arises from these complex constellations. On the one side, ethnicbased homogenization of groups which are per se diverse has to be avoided; on the other, by adding manifold variables such as legal status, milieu and language-related aspects, research designs become tremendously complex, specially if these variables simply constitute control variables (Larsen-Freeman & Cameron 2008). The investigation of speakers, languages and communicative practices in super-diverse settings thus causes various methodological challenges. To focus on the dynamic interplay of the relevant variables, as well as on their development across time, longitudinal designs of both quantitative and qualitative nature are called for. Regarding quantitative research, Lynn (2009) describes distinct features of longitudinal surveys: the focus on individual-level change; the employment of measures of stability or instability; the inclusion of time-related characteristics of events and circumstances; the enabling of analysis of expectations and outcomes that would not be possible with any other data source. Such designs are complex and require long-time planning and financing. In a qualitative paradigm, designed to capture the complex nature of communicative practices, ethnographic methods are usually applied (Blommaert & Rampton 2011; see also Creese & Blackledge 2010). The complexity of language(s), their speakers and interactions may require researchers to use a combination of methods to study one and the same phenomenon (triangulation or mixed-method designs) (Flick, 2011, Leech and Onwuegbuzie, 2009). The OECD-PISA-Studies offer an example for the complexity of capturing language use in migrant families (OECD 2010). Specifically, it includes the most frequently spoken language(s) at home by 15year-olds as a proxy for language use within the family. The DESI (Deutsch Englisch Schlerleistungen International International comparison of German and English student performance) study (Klieme et al. 2006) has been particularly intensive in the endeavor to describe inner-familiar language-

related learning opportunities by means of a detailed questionnaire in which parents were asked about language-related knowledge, attitudes and experiences. A major topic were language practices in the family, such as dealing with the German and English languages (for example with respect to German: "In our family there are conversations related to language issues, for example, can I say or write this?; related to the use of English: We talk about English texts). DESI also included several variables to capture the linguistic home environment in relation to learning, such as language-related skills in the family, the importance of language in the occupation of the parents, language-related forms of support, dealing with German or English in the family, the value of language in the family and parental interest in German or English language teaching. In the classification of language use DESI takes on a developmental perspective classifies students according to the first language learned (in a tripartite model: 1) German, 2) multilingual, i.e. German and another language were simultaneously acquired, and 3) other language, i.e. another family language was learnt first). Results show that the categories of first language learnt and migration background are closely related. The group of students with German as a first language is largely identical to the group without a migration background as traditionally defined with respect to the students and parents country of birth. Students with a first language other than German are mostly found in the group of students with foreign-born parents. Only the group of multilingual students is distributed relatively evenly with regard to the origin of the family members. The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), which constitutes one of the most important sources for individual-level investigations of the migrant population, investigates family language usage in the mother-child questionnaire only and specifically asks whether household members speak German only, German and other languages, or other languages only with the child (Socio-Economic Panel 2013). The National Educational Panel (NEPS), which allows for analyses based on a large-scale data set which also comprises productive language data for certain migrant groups, makes an effort to capture family language use in a more detailed manner. Students are not only asked which language(s) they have learned in the family, but also what languages are used in different constellations of communication. Specifically, students are asked what languages they use when talking to their mother, father, brothers and sisters, and what languages are used by their parents when talking with each other, where students can differentiate between only German, mostly German, mostly the other language, and only the other language. Further, the NEPS assesses which languages are used by the students when carrying out different activities, such as reading books or writing text messages (National Educational Panel Study 2013). Although when speaking about students with a migration background it seems to be clear what exactly is meant, similar to the issue of language use the operationalization of this concept differs across the different studies. Kemper (2010), for instance, illustrated this inconsistency using data from the German school statistics. He demonstrated which problems stem from the heterogeneity in the definition of migration background, particularly with respect to the limited comparability of results from different studies. Furthermore, many studies focus only on particular groups of migrants, for example on former labor migrants and their families (Venema & Grimm 2002; Babka von Gostomski 2008; Weidacher 2000) or on ethnic German repatriates (Haug & Sauer 2007), while special research projects focus on female migrants (Boos-Nnning & Karakasoglu 2006), the "second generation" (Haug & Diehl 2005) or Muslims (Brettfeld & Wetzels 2007). The question of the measurement of language competence is also dealt with in various ways, making results difficult to compare. While the PISA-Study tests reading comprehension, DESI, for example, also includes text production, reading comprehension (only for the English language), language

awareness, vocabulary, writing and orthography. Thus, different results may emerge in relation to the tested areas and also forms (receptive vs. productive; free production vs. multiple choice, etc.). Summing up, it can be stated that empirical research dealing with the achievement of immigrantbackground students commonly uses various key-concepts, of which the operationalization is 1) highly heterogeneous both in terms of the amount of items used to grasp certain phenomena as well as with regard to the complexity and range of the areas included, and thus 2) do not allow for general comparisons between studies.

4. Research questions and hypotheses The present study aims to empirically address two issues with respect to attempts to estimate the effect of language use in migrant families on students majority language skills. Firstly, the question is addressed whether and to what extent estimates differ when applying different operationalizations to capture language use in the family. Secondly, we assess how far it matters what reference group is chosen in interpreting results. Specifically, while studies like PISA typically compare test scores of natives and immigrant-background students from different language environments, it may be more reasonable to compare the achievements among immigrant-background students that are characterized by different language use strategies. In sum, we hypothesize that the impact of students language use in the family will considerably differ when applying different operationalizations of this concept, suggesting that commonly used dummy variables that simply reflect whether German is used, or used most often, in the family or not may not adequately capture students home language environment. In addition, we hypothesize that results can be strongly manipulated by altering the reference group in regression analyses.

5. Methodology To empirically address our research questions, we collected data from 370 9 and 10 graders from three general schools in Hamburg in the end of the school year 2010/11, when students were at the point of transition into further general schooling to obtain higher certificates or into vocational education and training. Students were asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire in which one major focus was set on language use in the family. On the one hand, information was collected on the language use of different family members and in different communicative constellations. On the other hand, we collected data on the languages and frequency with which different topics are discussed in the family, and what languages students mostly use when carrying out different activities. Further, students were asked to participate in a text production test in German to assess their (academic) language skills. Additionally, we collected information on various background variables and students educational aspirations to be able to later relate language issues to students educational outcomes not only in terms of primary, but also in terms of secondary effects of ethnic origin. Of primary relevant with respect to the present research question, however, is the matter of language use of different family members in different communicative constellations as well as students language test scores. In a first step, we will assess whether and to what extent students with a migration background perform differently than natives in the language test. In the analyses below, students with a migration background are referred to as those students with at least one parent born abroad. In a second step, we estimate regressions to explain the observed variation in
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the language test score not by further differentiating the migrant population based on characteristics of the family language use. Specifically, besides the question of whether only German or other languages as well, or exclusively, are used in the family, we will apply five alternative operationalizations of language use in the family to assess in how far results are sensitive to such a change in perspectives. Finally, we will present the results of the same regressions using a different reference group in order to investigate whether a change in the point of reference will allow the manipulation of our results. Specifically, we will first use native students as the reference point and then change it to immigrant-background students that grow up using only German most often in the family.

Language use in the family As far as students language use is concerned, we apply the following operationalizations to empirically address the research questions outlined above, which refer to the language(s) used in the family the student acquired first in the family used most often among the parents when communicating with each other used most often by the student when communicating with his or her mother used most often by the mother when communicating with the student used by both parents when communicating with the students, i.e. whether German only is used most often when communicating with the student by both parents, by one parent or not at all.

As concerns the precise operationalizations used, the first two aspects relate to the question whether German only, German and other languages, or languages other than German only are used in the family on the one hand, and what language(s) were first acquired by the student, on the other. As regards the latter aspects, questions refer to whether the student indicated that only German, German and other languages, or languages other than German only are used most often in communications among different family members.

Language competence Language competence was tested by applying the Fast Catch Bumerang language test for the German language (Reich, Roth & Dll 2009). This test intends to give a complex insight into several areas of linguistic proficiency as it is based on the method of profile analysis (Clahsen 1986). The test is a picture-based elicitation of productive textual data, based on eight pictures depicting the various steps of building a boomerang. The analysis of language samples includes four main aspects: textual pragmatics (textual structuring, task accomplishment, etc.), vocabulary (technical and general nouns, verbs and adjectives), academic language (nominalizations, use of passives, compound-words, etc.) and syntax (text cohesion in terms of sentence connectors). From these indicators, an overall score was built to reflect students language skills.
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There are also versions available in Turkish and Russian.

6. Results In a first step, we present regression analyses to explain the variation in the achieved language test scores by whether students have a migration background or not while controlling for sex and the familys socioeconomic background (HISEI) as a baseline model (table 1). The lowest test score that was achieved was as low as 9.99 points, the highest as much as 55.82 points. Only 273 out of the 370 students were included in the analyses below as only those students provided information on all relevant questions for our analyses, participated in the language test, and lived in one household with their mother (and/or father) at the point of data collection. Firstly, we can observe that boys perform significantly worse than girls and score, on average, about six points lower in the test than girls. While students socio-economic status is not significant, we observe significant differences between students with and without a migration background: the former group scores about four points lower in the language test (model 1a). The second model includes a variable that further differentiates the group of migrants by the number of parents born abroad and suggests that the gap observed between natives and migrants can be primarily attributed to differences between natives and students from families where both parents are born abroad (model 2a) . While this group scores about five points lower than natives, no significant differences can be observed in the language competences of natives and students with one parent born abroad. This finding may, at first sight, suggest that differences in the language use in the family may indeed be a major underlying mechanism which causing lower levels of majority language skills in immigrantbackground students. Models 3a 8a were estimated using different operationalizations of students language use in the family to address this question empirically. The reference group in these models is students without a migration background. Model 3a includes a variable that reflects what language(s) is/are used in the family and suggests that immigrant-background students from families where German is used only do not perform significantly worse than natives, while the other migrant groups do. Specifically, students from families where German and other languages are used score about four points lower, and students from families where languages other than German are used only score more than 7 points lower than natives. As regards the language acquired first by the student, model 4a suggests a similar result. While immigrant-background students who acquired German as their first language do not score significantly lower than natives, students who acquired both German and other languages as their first language or languages other than German only are characterized by significantly lower levels of majority language skills. Specifically, the former group scores about 4 points lower and the latter more than 6 points lower than natives. As concerns the language use among parents (model 5a), we obtain different results. According to this operationalization, neither the group of students whose parents use German most often when communicating with each other, nor the group whose parents use both German and other languages most often score significantly lower than natives. The group of students whose parents use languages other than German only most often, however, is characterized by significantly lower levels of performance and scores about 6 points lower than natives. As concerns the language(s) used most often by the student when communicating with his or her parents, we find that all three groups of immigrant-background students score significantly lower than natives when differentiating by the language usage of the student when communicating with
2 Model 2a includes 271 observations only as in two cases students provided information on the country of birth of one parent only.

the mother (model 6a). While students that use German most often score about three points lower than natives, the difference is about 5 points in the case of students that use German and other languages most often, and almost as high as seven points in the case of students that use languages other than German only most often when communicating with their mothers. With respect to the language use of the mother when communicating to the child (model 7a), we make a different observation. While students whose mother uses German only most often when communicating with them do not perform significantly worse than natives in the language test, students whose mother does not only use German do. Specifically, students whose mother uses German and other languages most often score about four points lower, and students whose mother uses languages other than German most often score more than six points lower than natives. Finally, model 8a assesses the language use of both parents in communicating with the student and suggests that neither students from families where both parents use German most often, nor from families where one parent uses German most often only, score significantly lower than natives. The group of migrants from families where neither parent uses German most often in communicating with the student, however, score as much as five points lower in the language test than natives. In sum, we make several observations with respect to our first research question regarding the matter of different operationalizations to capture students language use in the family. On the one hand, we seem to indeed find a tendency that students who are exposed to German exclusively or mostly in the family show levels of performance which are very similar to those of natives. Students who are only or mostly exposed to languages other than German, on the other hand, show significantly lower levels of language competence in all models, the difference to natives varying between 5 and 8 points depending on the respective operationalization. As concerns the group of students who are exposed to both German and other languages most often, the evidence is ambiguous. Specifically, when using certain opeartionalizations this group performs significantly worse than the group of natives, whereas no significant differences can be observed when using other operationalizations. This finding suggests that the way in which family language use is captured may indeed matter with respect to the impact ascribed to language use in explaining the performance gap between natives and students with a migration background. Also, we find that all models explain the variation observed in the language competence test to a very similar extent (between 17 and 18 percent). In a second step, we address the question whether the choice of the reference group in our multivariate analyses matters with respect to the impact of language use strategies on majority language competencies (table 2). Specifically, while the reference group above consisted of native students, it is now the group of immigrant-background students that is exposed to German exclusively or most often only. Nothing changes with respect to the comparison of students without a migration background and the reference group. As above, we observe significant differences only in model 6b, reflecting the language(s) used most often by the student when communicating with his or her mother. As concerns the other two groups, however, we observe several interesting changes in coefficients and with respect to their significance levels. While the group of students who are mostly exposed to language(s) other than German only in the family were shown to score significantly lower than natives no matter which operationalization was used to capture family language use above, this pattern turns out to be less clear now. In fact, this group scores significantly lower than immigrantbackground students mostly exposed to German only in the case of two out of six models, specifically in the case of students that acquired language(s) other than German as a first language only (model 4a) on the one hand, and students from families where the mother uses languages other than

German most often when communicating with the child on the other hand. In all other models, immigrant-background students that are exposed to German only most often and students that are primarily exposed to other language(s) are characterized by similar levels of majority language competence. As concerns the group of students that are exposed to both German and other languages most often, we find no significant differences compared to the competence levels shown by immigrant-background students that are exposed to German most often only in all models.

Table 1: Different operationalizations of family language use, reference group natives.


Language competence (German) sex
(reference category: female)

Model 1a -6.05 *** 1.006 0.0000 0.03 0.027 0.3050 -4.10 *** 1.025 0.0000

Model 2a -6.06 *** 1.005 0.0000 0.02 0.027 0.3750

Model 3a -6.21 *** 1.008 0.0000 0.03 0.027 0.3050

Model 4a -6.09 *** 1.016 0.0000 0.02 0.027 0.4410

Model 5a -6.01 *** 1.007 0.0000 0.02 0.027 0.4310

Model 6a -6.07 *** 1.007 0.0000 0.02 0.027 0.5400

Model 7a -6.34 *** 1.003 0.0000 0.02 0.027 0.5400

Model 8a -6.23 *** 1.007 0.0000 0.02 0.027 0.5080

HISIEI

Migration background (one or both parents born abroad)


(reference category: no migration background)

One parent born aborad


(reference category: no migration background)

Both parents born abroad


(reference category: no migration background)

-1.81 1.496 0.2270 -4.94 *** 1.145 0.0000 -0.92 2.411 0.7020 -4.30 *** 1.063 0.0000 -7.34 * 3.346 0.0290 -1.11 1.724 0.5220 -3.87 ** 1.278 0.0030 -6.58 *** 1.467 0.0000 -2.48 1.666 0.1370 -2.45 1.636 0.1360 -5.65 *** 1.24 0.0000 -2.94 * 1.289 0.0230 -4.72 *** 1.339 0.0010 -6.64 ** 2.1 0.0020 -1.54 1.508 0.3080 -4.21 ** 1.377 0.0020 -6.49 *** 1.457 0.0000 -3.32 2.113 0.1180 -2.16 1.524 0.1570 -5.40 *** 1.222 0.0000 35.38 *** 1.599 0.0000 0.16 0.15 17.11 0.0000 273 35.58 *** 1.601 0.0000 0.17 0.15 13.249 0.0000 271 35.45 *** 1.599 0.0000 0.17 0.15 10.90 0.0000 273 35.77 *** 1.59 0.0000 0.18 0.17 11.99 0.0000 273 35.71 *** 1.599 0.0000 0.18 11.34 0.16 0.0000 273 35.97 *** 1.633 0.0000 0.17 0.15 10.92 0.0000 273 36.11 *** 1.609 0.0000 0.18 0.17 11.91 0.0000 273 35.97 *** 1.624 0.0000 0.17 0.16 11.11 0.0000 273

Langauge at home: German only


(reference category: no migration background)

Langauge at home: German and other language(s)


(reference category: no migration background)

Language at home: language(s) other than German only


(reference category: no migration background)

Language first acquired: German only


(reference category: no migration background)

Language first acquired: German and other language (s)


(reference category: no migration background)

Language first acquired: language(s) other than German only


(reference category: no migration background)

Parents language usage: German most often


(reference category: no migration background)

Parents language usage: German and other language(s) most often


(reference category: no migration background)

Parents language usage: language(s) other than German most often


(reference category: no migration background)

Langauge usage student to mother: German most often


(reference category: no migration background)

Langauge usage student to mother: German and other language(s) most often
(reference category: no migration background)

Langauge usage student to mother: language(s) other than German most often
(reference category: no migration background)

Langauge usage mother to student: German most often


(reference category: no migration background)

Langauge usage mother to student: German and other language(s) most often
(reference category: no migration background)

Langauge usage mother to student: language(s) other than German most often
(reference category: no migration background)

Both parents to student: German most often


(reference category: no migration background)

One parent to student: German most often


(reference category: no migration background)

No parent to student: German most often


(reference category: no migration background)

Constant

R Adj. R F-Statistic Prob > F Number of observations

Table 2: Different operationalizations of family language use, reference group migrants that are exposed to German exclusively or mostly.
Language competence (German) sex
(reference category: female)

HISIEI

Students without a migration background


(reference category: migrants that use German only in the family)

Langauge at home: German and other language(s)


(reference category: migrants that use German only in the family)

Language at home: language(s) other than German only


(reference category: migrants that use German only in the family)

Model 3b -6.21 *** 1.008 0.0000 0.03 0.027 0.3050 0.92 2.411 0.7020 -3.38 2.429 0.1650 -6.41 3.981 0.1090

Model 4b -6.09 *** 1.016 0.0000 0.02 0.027 0.4410

Model 5b -6.01 *** 1.007 0.0000 0.02 0.027 0.4310

Model 6b -6.07*** 1.007 0.0000 0.02 0.027 0.5400

Model 7b -6.34*** 1.003 0.0000 0.02 0.027 0.5400

Model 8b -6.23 *** 1.007 0.0000 0.02 0.027 0.5080

Students without a migration background


(reference category: migrants who acquired German only as a first language)

Language first acquired: German and other language (s)


(reference category: migrants who acquired German only as a first language)

Language first acquired: language(s) other than German only


(reference category: migrants who acquired German only as a first language)

1.11 1.724 0.5220 -2.76 1.924 0.1520 -5.47 ** 2.015 0.0070 2.48 1.666 0.1370 0.04 2.127 0.9860 -3.17 1.822 0.0830 2.94* 1.289 0.0230 -1.78 1.576 0.2600 -3.70 2.23 0.0980 1.54 1.508 0.3080 -2.68 1.806 0.1400 -4.95** 1.843 0.0080 3.32 2.113 0.1180 1.16 2.427 0.6340 -2.08 2.198 0.3450 32.66 *** 2.291 0.0000 0.17 0.16 11.11 0.0000 273

Students without a migration background


(reference category: migrants whose parents use German most often)

Parents language usage: German and other language(s) most often


(reference category: migrants whose parents use German most often)

Parents language usage: language(s) other than German most often


(reference category: migrants whose parents use German most often)

Students without a migration background


(reference category: migrants who use German most often to their mother)

Langauge usage student to mother: German and other language(s) most often
(reference category: migrants who use German most often to their mother)

Langauge usage student to mother: language(s) other than German most often
(reference category: migrants who use German most often to their mother)

Students without a migration background


(reference category: migrants whose mother uses German most often)

Langauge usage mother to student: German and other language(s) most often
(reference category: migrants whose mother uses German most often)

Langauge usage mother to student: language(s) other than German most often
(reference category: migrants whose mother uses German most often)

Students without a migration background


(reference category: migrants whose parents use both German most often)

One parent to student: German most often


(reference category: migrants whose parents use both German most often)

No parent to student: German most often


(reference category: migrants whose parents use both German most often)

Constant

34.52 *** 2.552 0.0000 0.17 0.15 10.90 0.0000 273

34.67 *** 1.992 0.0000 0.18 0.17 11.99 0.0000 273

33.23 *** 1.973 0.0000 0.18 0.16 11.34 0.0000 273

33.03*** 1.71 0.0000 0.17 0.15 10.92 0.0000 273

34.57*** 1.871 0.0000 0.18 0.17 11.91 0.0000 273

R Adj. R F-Statistic Prob > F Number of observations

7. Summary and discussion In sum, our data clearly shows that both the operationalization used to capture family language use and the reference group lead to significantly different results with respect to the negative influence ascribed to the use of languages other than German in migrant families. As concerns the operationalization of family language use, our data suggests that it may strongly vary among different family members and in different constellations of communication, and differently affect students majority language skills. Consequently, the question of which language is used most often in the family, as used in large-scale studies such as PISA and DESI, will most likely reflect the students subjective judgment of which of these constellations or persons the question may be most relevant in this context. Further, we find that the choice of the reference group in multivariate analyses

indeed matters in drawing conclusions with respect to the effect of family language use on majority language competences. While language use strategies in the family seem to play a major role when using natives as a reference group, we hardly find any significant differences when using immigrantbackground students that are mostly or exclusively exposed to German in the family context only as a point of reference. As the present study is of cross-sectional nature, however, no causal conclusions can be drawn in terms of the actual influence of language usage on majority language competence. For example, it is possible that reverse causalities may play a role in the estimations above. Specifically, it may not only be the case that family language use influences students language competences in German, but the opposite relation may also occur, i.e. the family language use may as well be influenced by students language skills. Another limitation is the fact that relevant variables, such as the generation or age of migration, are not included in our analyses. Similarly, it is possible that the operationalizations suggested to capture family language use may not be of high explanatory value themselves but rather proxy related phenomena. For example, it must not necessarily be the case that the language used among parents largely explains the variation in the students test scores, but that this phenomenon is rather related to the languages used in communications between parents and the student him- or herself, which may be much more important. A simultaneous consideration of these different aspects and constellations, however, requires larger data sets which allow the introduction of several variables into one model along with language competence measures other than self-assessed data. In sum, our findings strongly suggest that results of and conclusions drawn from studies that consider family language use to explain differences in language competence, or academic performance in general, may be easily manipulated by choosing different reference groups and different operationalizations to capture family language use. Our study has attempted to show the centrality of a critical reflection of the key-concepts and reference groups when collecting, analyzing and interpreting data in super-diverse constellations. According to Vertovec (2009), the complexity and amount of migration forms will continue to increase, thus posing further challenges to empirical educational research. Our results show a considerable amount of discrepancies deriving from the different forms of operationalization and the choice of reference groups. As a consequence, we suggest that empirical research on the achievement of immigrant-background students should be more explicit in explaining the challenges and limitations of the chosen form of operationalization and should address differences in results regarding different reference groups.

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