Second-Generation Americans: A Portrait of the Adult Children of Immigrants

In 2006, we wrote, “The policy debates over [immigration] in the halls of Congress will go on, but the hard task of blending millions of immigrants (legal or not) into American society marches on daily, at least in the nation’s schools.” While that hard task continues, this Pew study on second-generation Americans offers some assurance that the work is not for naught. It tracks census data from the 20 million second-generation Americas above the age of twenty-five—and supplements them with Pew’s own survey data—to compare the educational and economic status of these second-gen Americans to both their parents’ generation and the broader populace. Bottom line: Children of immigrants are climbing the socioeconomic ladder. Second-generation adults fare better than those in the first generation in median household income (by $22,000), college degrees (by 7 percentage points), and more. They’re also 16 percentage points likelier to have finished high school. And most of these favorable comparisons hold within racial subgroups. This may be partly because fully three quarters of both Hispanic second-gen’ers and Asian second gen’ers (groups that comprise three-quarters of this population) believe that “most people can get ahead if they work hard.” By contrast, only 58 percent of the general American public feels the same way. That said, Pew analysts also point to some worrisome trends. Among them, second-generation Hispanics were considerably worse off than their Asian counterparts on such gauges as economic achievement and educational attainment. Our 2006 assertion still rings true.

SOURCE: Pew Research Center, Second-Generation Americans: A Portrait of the Adult Children of Immigrants (Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center, February 2013).

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