This study examines the factors that contribute to cross-national differences in educational attainment among second-generation Turks in Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden. Drawing on the international TIES survey we investigate empirically school trajectories and outcomes from descendants of Turkish immigrants in the three countries to identify the main driving forces behind social mobility. We pay particular attention to the interactions between the prevailing institutional arrangements in school and the role that family resources play in education to explain cross-national differences in outcomes. Our results show these crossnational differences can hardly be explained by differences in the parental generation of second-generation Turks. Instead, our empirical evidence highlights that the interaction between the institutional arrangements and family level factors determines the direction and the ultimate outcome of the educational process. Education systems which provide more favourable institutional arrangements render second-generation Turks less dependent on family factors and resources and ultimately lead to their higher educational attainment.