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Longitudinal Student Immigrant Adaptation Study

Longitudinal Student Immigrant Adaptation Study

Co-Principal Investigators: Carola Suárez-Orozco, Ph.D. & Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Ph.D.
Funded by: the National Science Foundation, W.T. Grant Foundation, and Spencer Foundation

With funding from multiple grants from the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the W. T. Grant Foundation, L.I.S.A. is designed to address a need for better understanding of the long-term adaptations of immigrant children and youth to American schools. While the Co-Principal Investigators were the Co-Directors of the Harvard Immigration Projects, form 1997 to 2003, a large bi-costal team collected data under their supervision on the psychosocial, demographic, and cultural characteristics of recently arrived immigrant children, youth and families originating in Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. A total of 400 students, aged 9 to 14 at the beginning of the study, were recruited from Boston area and San Francisco area schools.

L.I.S.A. distinguishes itself from other research efforts in a variety of ways. First, it is an interdisciplinary project employing ethnographic, psychological, and educational methodologies. Second, it is a comparative study involving several immigrant groups from a variety of backgrounds but with strict inclusion criteria that is uncommon in immigration studies. Third, it takes a longitudinal perspective on the changing lives of immigrant youth. L.I.S.A. was designed to pay careful attention to the role of gender, race, and ethnicity in the experiences and schooling outcomes of immigrant youth.

A range of strategies have been deployed to elicit data on demographic characteristics, immigration histories, changing family systems, networks of social relations and supports, school and neighborhood contexts, and patterns of academic engagement and disengagement over time. The primary methodologies of the study include ethnographic participant observations; ethnographic interviews of students, school personnel, and parents; psychosocial and narrative measures; individually administered bilingual verbal ability and achievement assessments; and careful review of each participant’s academic records.

The primary research questions of the study include:

  • How do separations, reunifications, and the social process of immigration affect the family system, including culturally constructed role expectations, patterns of familial cohesion, authority and discipline, linguistic and literacy patterns?
  • How does the academic engagement of immigrant youth change over time?
  • What are the relationships between immigrant resources including economic, cultural, and social capital and schooling?
  • How does the school context shape academic engagement and outcomes?
  • How do social relations (including extended family, peers, teachers, mentors, community and religious leaders) influence academic engagement and achievement?
  • What is the relationship between gender and school processes and outcomes?

The data collection phase of the project has been completed — we are currently analyzing the data which is archived at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


learning a new landFor findings from the L.I.S.A. project, please see Learning a New Land: Immigrant Students in American Society (2008). See also Online Supplemental Notes for Learning a New Land.


Note that all materials below were specially developed for the Longitudinal Immigrant Student Adaptation Study. Researchers are welcome to make use of these protocols if appropriately cited.


Parent Interview Year 1 (Initial): Chinese English Kreyol Spanish
Parent Interview Year 5 (Final): Chinese English Kreyol Spanish

Student Interview Year 1: Chinese English Kreyol Spanish
Student Interview Year 2: Chinese English Kreyol Spanish
Student Interview Year 3: Chinese English Kreyol Spanish
Student Interview Year 4: Chinese English Kreyol Spanish
Student Interview Year 5: Chinese English Kreyol Spanish

Behavior Checklist
Network of Relations: Chinese English Kreyol Spanish
Teacher Interview
Narrative Task Card 1
Narrative Task Card 2
Sentence Completion

Learn more

Suárez-Orozco, C., Suárez-Orozco, M. M., & Todorova, I. (2008). Learning a New Land: Immigrant Students in American Society. Harvard University Press.

Suárez-Orozco, C., Gaytán, F. X., Bang, H. J., Pakes, J., O’Connor, E., & Rhodes, J. (2010). Academic trajectories of newcomer immigrant youth. Developmental psychology46(3), 602.

Suárez-Orozco, C., Rhodes, J., & Milburn, M. (2009). Unraveling the immigrant paradox: Academic engagement and disengagement among recently arrived immigrant youth. Youth & Society41(2), 151-185.

Suárez-Orozco, C., Pimentel, A., & Martin, M. (2009). The significance of relationships: Academic engagement and achievement among newcomer immigrant youth. Teachers’ College Record, 111(3), 712-749.

Carhill, A., Suárez-Orozco, C., & Páez, M. (2008). Explaining English language proficiency among adolescent immigrant students. American Educational Research Journal45(4), 1155-1179.

Hagelskamp, C., Suárez‐Orozco, C., & Hughes, D. (2010). Migrating to opportunities: How family migration motivations shape academic trajectories among newcomer immigrant youth. Journal of social issues, 66(4), 717-739.

Future perfect?: Teachers’ expectations and explanations of their Latino immigrant students’ postsecondary futures
Dabach, D. B., Suárez-Orozco, C., Hernandez, S. J., & Brooks, M. D. (2018). Future perfect?: Teachers’ expectations and explanations of their Latino immigrant students’ postsecondary futures. Journal of Latinos and Education, 17(1), 38-52.

Green, G., Rhodes, J., Hirsch, A. H., Suárez-Orozco, C., & Camic, P. M. (2008). Supportive adult relationships and the academic engagement of Latin American immigrant youth. Journal of School Psychology, 46(4), 393-412.

Suárez-Orozco, C., Onaga, M., & de Lardemelle, C.(2010). Promoting academic engagement among immigrant adolescents through school-family-community collaboration. Professional School Counseling, 14(1), 2156759X1001400103.