Panel Paper: Second-Generation Decline Or Advantage? New Patterns of Latino Assimilation in the U.S

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 10:05 AM
Westview (Ritz Carlton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Van C. Tran, Columbia University
Over the last two decades, four key trends have transformed the Latino experience in the U.S. and raised new questions about their assimilation into the American mainstream. First, the Latino population has emerged as the largest minority group in the country, comprising 50.5 million or 16.3 percent of the U.S. population in 2010. Second, the children of Latino immigrants (i.e. the Latino second generation) are transitioning into young adulthood in sizable numbers. Third, the constant replenishment of the Latino population with new immigrants has increased the heterogeneity among Latinos by ethnic origin, immigrant generation, social class background and legal status. Finally, Latinos are increasingly settling in smaller cities and towns in new immigrant destinations that are outside of traditional gateway states, raising new questions about their future assimilation prospects in these emerging destinations.

In light of these trends, this paper seeks to answer the following questions. First, how are Latinos and their descendants being incorporated into American society? Second, do we observe a second-generation decline or advantage among the Latino second generation in terms of educational and occupational attainment? Third, how might the process of assimilation differ across Latino ethnic groups and immigrant destinations? This paper uses a pooled dataset from the March Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS), which provides nationally representative samples of Latinos from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and includes nativity and generational status, country of origin, and detailed labor market and educational outcomes.

The paper reports three main findings. First, there is clear intergenerational progress between the first and second generation in terms of educational and occupational mobility with modest gains reported between the second and third generation across all Latino groups. Second, there is some evidence in support of a second-generation advantage among individuals of Cuban, Dominican, Central and South American descent, whereas Mexican and Salvadoran-origin individuals continue to lag behind non-Latino whites. Third, new immigrant destinations provide important venues for intergenerational mobility, although the gain is more modest compared to the traditional gateway states. Overall, these findings suggest that Latinos are increasingly integrated into the American mainstream and provide little support for the second-generation decline thesis. Furthermore, they suggest that educational and economic convergence with non-Latino whites is likely to continue in the future.