Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Race Matters, To Be Sure...

They’re not just like the Irish—or the Italians or the Poles, for that matter. The large influx of Hispanic immigrants after 1965 represents a unique assimilation challenge for the United States. Many optimistic observers have assumed—incorrectly, it turns out—that Hispanic immigrants will follow the same economic trajectory European immigrants did in the early part of the last century. Many of those Europeans came to America with no money and few skills, but their status steadily improved. Their children outperformed them, and their children’s children were often indistinguishable from the “founding stock.” The speed of economic assimilation varied somewhat by ethnic group, but three generations were typically enough to turn “ethnics” into plain old Americans.

{snip} “People used to say the Irish or the Poles would always be poor, but look at them today!” For Hispanics, we are led to believe, the same thing will happen.

But that claim isn’t true. Though about three-quarters of Hispanics living in the U.S. today are either immigrants or the children of immigrants, a significant number have roots here going back many generations. We have several ways to measure their intergenerational progress, and the results leave little room for optimism about their prospects for assimilation.


The children of Hispanic immigrants (the second generation) actually stay in school much longer and earn a considerably higher wage than their parents. In fact, the Hispanic rate of assimilation from the first to the second generation is only slightly lower than the assimilation rate of more successful groups of immigrants. Most second-generation Hispanics make up nearly as much ground as the children of European immigrants would if they grew up in the same disadvantaged situation.

But the good news ends there, and two problems arise. {snip} [Assimilation] appears to stall after the second generation. We see little further ladder-climbing from the grandchildren of Hispanic immigrants. They do not rise out of the lower class.

The most straightforward statistical evidence of this stall in Hispanic assimilation comes from the Current Population Survey (CPS), which asks respondents their ethnicity, where they were born, and where their parents were born. From this information we can construct an account of the first generation (foreign-born), the second generation (born in the U.S. with at least one foreign-born parent), and the “3+” generations (born in the U.S. to two U.S.-born parents) among the Hispanic respondents.

This chart shows how Hispanic Americans compare with white natives generation by generation. The annual earnings of second-generation Hispanic men are substantially higher than those of the first generation. However, the 3+ generations have about the same earnings as the second, still well below white natives. No generational progress beyond the second generation is evident.

The educational picture does not look much better. The children of Hispanic immigrants are much better educated than their parents. However, American-born Hispanics still have high dropout and low college-completion rates compared with white natives, and there is little improvement from the second to the 3+ generations. Again, progress stalls.

-more here

It's like throwing a house cat into a pin with a panther and then wondering why they didn't get along.

"I mean, hey, they're both cats right! What could go wrong?"