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Melvin Stephens, Estimating Program Benefits

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The New Second Generation in the United States.

Publication Abstract

Farley, Reynolds, and R. Alba. 2002. "The New Second Generation in the United States." International Migration Review, 36(3): 669-701.

Immigration to the United States accelerated in the late 1960s. Since many migrants are young people who form families shortly after arrival, there is now a large and rapidly growing second generation - many of them now young adults who recently completed school and started their careers. There is much speculation about whether this second generation will assimilate into the middle class rapidly or form a new urban underclass. The last census to ask parental birthplace questions was 1970, so an absence of data precluded testing hypotheses about the social and economic progress of the new second generation. In 1994, the Census Bureau returned an inquiry about parental birthplace to the Current Population Survey so there is now an annual national sample of about 16,000 second-gene ration Americans. Data from the 1998 and 2000 surveys were pooled and analyzed. This investigation demonstrates that these comprehensive new data provide valuable descriptive information about today's second generation and permit the cautious testing of hypotheses concerning social and economic assimilation. They reveal a great diversity among the second generation depending upon country of origin but, in most comparisons, today's second generation exceed their first-generation parents in educational attainment, occupational achievement and economic status. In many comparisons, second-generation groups have educational attainments exceeding those of third- and higher-generation whites and African Americans. These data refute the hypothesis that today's second generation will languish in poverty. Nevertheless, intergenerational progress was less for persons of Puerto Rican and Mexican heritage than for those of Asian, European or South American heritage.

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