Academic success more likely for children granted German citizenship at birth

Academic success more likely for children granted German citizenship at birth

A study by Germany’s Institute of Population Research has revealed educational inequality among immigrant children who were granted citizenship at birth and those who were not.

Children without German citizenship are educationally disadvantaged

The Federal Institute of Population Research has released a study demonstrating how children who were not granted German citizenship at birth go on to be disadvantaged in the German education system. The study focused on the knock-on effects of the federal government’s 1999 reform, which entitled children who were born in Germany to citizenship, if at least one of their parents had a legal residence permit for a minimum of eight years before the child’s birth.

The study considered the academic performances of children born in the year before and the year after the 1999 citizenship reform. The inequality between children of immigrant families who had been granted citizenship at birth and those who had not was most acutely expressed at the high school level

Of the families who had not benefited from the reform, 46 percent of children went on to attend Gymnasium. Gymnasien are the stream of German schools which provide the highest level of secondary education and where teens complete their Abitur exams required for applying to university. Of those who were granted citizenship at birth, 62 percent attend a Gymnasium, rather than one of Germany’s Realschule or Hauptschule vocational schools.

Parental expectations impact immigrant children’s performance

Critics of Germany’s academically segregated education system argue that the hierarchy disadvantages all children, particularly those from immigrant families, who may speak other languages in the early stages of childhood and have a slower academic development.

But the Institute’s study also proposed that immigrant parents whose children have a German passport were more likely to believe that their children can be academically successful in the German school system. According to the study, these high expectations bore better academic outcomes.

The citizenship status of children from immigrant families in Germany was also likely to impact their development at the earlier stages of childhood, with those granted citizenship being more likely to attend Kita (nursery). Parents of children with citizenship also reported being highly motivated to integrate and were more likely to regularly interact with the German language.

The conditions for immigrant children’s citizenship which were implemented in 1999 are the same conditions that remain today. Though the German government is currently creating a draft law to drastically overhaul the country’s citizenship legislation, Olaf Scholz’s government has not announced further reforms to children’s citizenship, such as granting default citizenship to all children born in Germany.

Thumb image credit: rkl_foto /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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Wade Byron Profe 11:42 | 5 January 2023

I just love it when a headline intentionally misrepresents the actual content of the article to drive an agenda. The success/failure of these children has nothing to do with the piece of paper but with the various factors mentioned in the second half of the article. Simply cheapening German citizenship will achieve nothing in this regard.