NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 29, 2009

The greatest passion generated during immigration debates over the past few years has concerned illegal immigration, but many people also have voiced fears that Hispanic immigrants, even those who came legally, are somehow different from all previous immigrants and never will move into the American mainstream, says author Linda Chavez.

A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center, however, suggests that many of these fears are overblown and that children of Latino immigrants are doing well on most measures.  They fare better on most health indicators (except obesity) than native-born Americans, for example, despite being less likely to be covered by health insurance.

  • Most important, they are about as likely to grow up in two-parent households as whites -- 73 percent, compared with 77 percent for whites.
  • They graduate from high school at rates slightly less than non-Hispanic whites (80 percent, compared with 92 percent of whites), but almost half go on to attend college.
  • And those who graduate from college actually earn slightly more than their native-born counterparts.
  • Additionally, the overwhelming majority of Hispanics born in the United States to immigrant parents are able to speak English well, which is key to their successful integration into American society.

Contrary to the impression that Hispanics remain poor no matter how long they've lived in the United States, upward mobility is still the rule, not the exception, says Chavez.  Twice as many third-generation Hispanics live in households with incomes of more than $75,000 a year (nearly one-third of all third-generation Hispanics do so) than live in households with incomes less than $25,000 a year.

The one worrisome trend among American-born Hispanics, says Chavez, is the same demographic trend that plagues African-Americans and growing numbers of poor whites: rising out-of-wedlock births and an increasing number of children who grow up in female-headed households.  "Third-generation" (which means third-generation or higher) Hispanics are far more likely than those of the first or second generation to grow up in households headed by unmarried mothers, with a majority, 52 percent, of such children growing up in homes without their fathers present.

Source: Linda Chavez, "Immigrants moving briskly to better U.S. lives," Dallas Morning News, September 27, 2009.


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