Latino Assimilation

2006-05-17

In a paper entitled Immigrant Success or Stagnation? (hat tip: Tyler Cowen), Walter A. Ewing and Benjamin Johnson conclude:

Despite the formidable obstacles confronting Latin American immigrants, Latinos are in fact experiencing a process of socioeconomic advancement across generations. Those born in the United States achieve average levels of education, income and English proficiency far greater than their immigrant parents and grandparents. However, because a large percentage of contemporary Latinos are first-generation immigrants, these advances across generations are often lost in aggregate statistics that analyze the Latino population as if it were an undifferentiated whole. This calls into question the rhetorical excesses of immigration restrictionists who claim that Latinos are unable or unwilling to replicate the upward mobility of their European predecessors. Moreover, this rhetoric does little to constructively address the important social problems confronting native-born Latinos who already have overcome many of the obstacles faced by their parents and grandparents.

I can't say I disagree with the conclusion, but I must say I was struck by the following statistics:

According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, first-generation immigrants from Latin America account for only 6.2% of the U.S. population as a whole, but constitute 45.6% of all Latinos. Among Mexican Americans, who account for 63.4% of all Latinos, 41.1% are first-generation immigrants. Moreover, a large number of these immigrants are very recent arrivals, with 52.1% having come to the United States between 1990 and 2002, and an additional 25.6% arriving during the 1980s.

That's a lot of immigration, especially given that America does not have the same commitment to assimilation that it once had. (Though I wonder: does assimilation simply emerge?)


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal