New report on increasing achievement gap between immigrant and native pupils


Over the past ten years, the proportion of foreign-born pupils in grade 9 has doubled from 6 to 13 percent. This is a record increase. Hans Grönqvist at the Department of Economics and Susan Niknami at SOFI, Stockholm University, have mapped and analyzed the differences in study results between domestic and foreign-born pupils in primary and secondary education during the period 1990–2017.

Hans Grönqvist and Susan Niknami

The gap in study results between domestic and foreign-born students has grown during this period. Study results among domestic-born pupils have improved somewhat, but above all, foreign-born pupils perform worse than before. The proportion of foreign-born pupils who receive upper secondary education has also declined sharply.

- The differences in study results depend to a large extent on the parents' socio-economic situation and housing area. Even what age you have when you come to Sweden plays a role, says Hans Grönqvist.

The average age of immigrant children has varied greatly and varies between 7 and 10 years. But even when the age at immigration was at its lowest, major differences in study results remained. For pupils who have immigrated before the age of 7, a positive development of the mean grades is seen over time, while pupils who are older when they come to Sweden show a negative trend.

- Older pupils have not been in the Swedish school system for very long. One way to try to compensate for this is to reintroduce subject grades at the upper secondary school. Then you would get a final grade last year in high school, instead of grades in individual courses as today. This gives students time to catch up, says Hans Grönqvist.

To reduce the gap in study, the authors also recommend broad investment in labor market and education policies for foreign-born adults and early efforts for foreign-born pupils during primary school. On the other hand, proposals to reduce school segregation are not considered to be the best for reducing the study gap, as school segregation explains relatively little of the increased differences, according to the study.


The data on which the study is based covers all 3.2 million pupils who have left compulsory school since 1988. With the help of the data material it is possible to follow pupils from compulsory school to upper secondary school. The authors have been able, among other things, to examine differences in average grades, upper secondary school eligibility, choice of study program for the upper secondary school and completed upper secondary education.

By comparison, the statistical data and outcome measures in the latest PISA survey are considerably less extensive. PISA analyzes the results of 5,500 students and focuses on three topics as outcome measures.

Last modified: 2022-10-07