Ethnic disparities in mental health and educational attainment: Comparing migrant and native children
Study background and aims: Ethnic disparities in mental health in adolescence may play a role in the development of ethnic disparities in educational attainment. The aim of this study was to assess the contribution of ethnic disparities in mental health problems in adolescence to ethnic disparities in educational attainment in adulthood. Methods: We followed two community samples of respectively 486 Dutch native and 168 Turkish migrant adolescents (11-15 years old) into adulthood (21-25 years old). Mental health was measured in adolescence, and educational attainment was assessed in adulthood. The contribution of mental health disparities to educational disparities was estimated by the degree of attenuation of the odds ratio (OR) for low education after adjustment for mental health problems. Results: Adult Turkish men more often had attained lower education than Dutch men (OR 1.81 (1.01-3.25)). Additional adjustment for mental health problems during adolescence did not change the OR. In Turkish women, however, the OR was 1.94 (1.04-3.62), and adjustment for mental health problems lowered it by 96% to 1.04 (0.51-2.14). The contribution was mostly due to ethnic disparities in internalizing problems. Conclusion: In women, but not in men, ethnic disparities in mental health, especially internalizing problems, were a strong predictor for the development of ethnic disparities in educational attainment. Prevention or treatment of internalizing problems among Turkish girls will probably contribute to the prevention of educational disparities.