June 19, 2013


America's Assimilating Hispanics : The evidence shows they are following the path of earlier immigrants. (WSJ, 6/18/13)

All of this follows the traditional three-generation model of linguistic assimilation that characterized European immigrants in the last century. Typically, English is the dominant language of the second generation, and by the fourth generation fewer than a quarter can still speak the immigrant tongue.

Educational progress among Latino immigrants is also evident, and it too fits a pattern shown by previous ethnic newcomers. Nearly half (47%) of foreign-born Hispanics lack a high-school diploma, but that number falls to 17% among their offspring. And 21% of second-generation Hispanics are college graduates, compared with 11% of foreign-born Hispanics residing in the U.S.

Latino immigrants who have been in the U.S. for three decades or more are also more likely than recent arrivals to own a home, live in a family with an income above the federal poverty line and marry outside of their ethnic group--all common measures of assimilation. According to 2012 Census data, the median household income for second-generation Hispanics is $48,400, versus $34,600 for Hispanic immigrants and $58,200 for all groups.

A Pew report from February on Hispanic and Asian immigrants--who comprise about 70% of foreign born adults in the U.S.--found that the second generation of both groups is more likely than immigrants to have friends outside of their ethnic or racial group, to say their group gets along well with others and to think of themselves as a "typical American." Pew also noted that "second-generation Hispanics and Asians place more importance than does the general public on hard work and career success."

Like many Mexicans today, Italian immigrants who came in large numbers in the late 1800s and early 1900s valued work over education. Italy had one of the highest illiteracy rates in Europe at the time--62% in 1871--and illiteracy was especially pronounced in southern Italy, where most Italian-Americans trace their ancestry. In 1910, just 31% of Italian immigrants aged 14 to 18 were enrolled in school, compared to 48% of the Irish and 56% of the Jews. Today, Italian-Americans exceed national averages in educational attainment and income.

Fears that the newest arrivals are overrunning America and changing it for the worse have a long pedigree. "Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs," wrote Benjamin Franklin in 1751.

Posted by at June 19, 2013 5:16 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus