News Column

Census Data Shows Evolution of Second-generation Americans

February 18, 2013

Ginnie Graham


Second-generation Americans have higher incomes and education, more homeownership, friends outside their racial and ethnic groups and tend to hold more liberal political beliefs, according to a nonprofit's analysis of census data.

The Pew Research Center looked at the trends and characteristics of the 20 million adult U.S.-born children of immigrants.

Even though seven out of 10 are younger Hispanics or Asian Americans, the report states the group still has diversity in its population.

A significant number are older adults who are children of European immigrants who arrived as part of an immigration wave that peaked a century ago.

Researchers analyzed data to create a portrait of the attitudes, values, economics and relationships of second-generation Americans.

When it comes to education and earnings, second-generation Americans reflect more of the U.S. population in achievements.

But, the group more closely resembles their immigrant parents when it turns to politics and belief in hard work.

Using immigration trends and birth rates, about 93 percent of the growth in the nation's working-age population between now and 2050 will come from immigrants and their U.S.-born children, according to the report.

By that time, the generations of immigrants and their children could grow from the current 76 million to more than 160 million, which would make a record share of 36 percent of the total U.S. population, the report states.

The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan, non-advocacy research organization based in Washington, D.C. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts and does not take policy positions.

Findings are:

Education and Economics: The second generation has a higher adjusted median income ($58,000, up from $46,000), more college degrees (36 percent compared to 29 percent) and increased homeownership (64 percent, up from 51 percent.)

Fewer are in poverty (11 percent compared to 18 percent) and are less likely to have not finished high school (10 percent versus 28 percent).

Identity: About six out of 10 second-generation adults consider themselves to be "typical American," but still have a strong sense of identity with their ancestral roots.

Intergroup relationships: About half of second-Hispanics (52 percent) and two-thirds of Asian Americans (64 percent) say their ethnic/racial groups get along with all other racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. They are more likely to say they have friends outside their ethnic or country-of-origin group.

Marriage: About one out of six (15 percent) of second-generation adults have a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, compared to 8 percent of immigrants and 8 percent of all U.S. adults.

Belief in Hard Work: About three-quarters of second-generation Hispanics (78 percent) and Asian Americans (72 percent) say most people can get ahead if they work hard. By comparison, about 58 percent of the total U.S. population of adults hold the same belief.

Politics and values: Immigrants and their children identify more with the Democratic Party and characterize themselves as liberals at a higher rate than the public.

About half of the second generation believe abortion should be legal and more than two-thirds say homosexuality should be accepted by society.

"The relative youth of the second generation contributes to, but does not fully explain, their liberal political leanings," the report states.

Non-marital childbearing: Second-generation women who recently gave birth are more likely to be unmarried than immigrant women (41 percent, compared to 23 percent).

Language: About nine out of 10 second-generation Hispanic and Asian-American immigrants are proficient English speakers, substantially more than the immigrant generations.

Perceptions of generational mobility: Most second-generation Hispanics (67 percent) and Asian Americans (75 percent) say their standard of living is better than that of their parents at the same stage of life. About 60 percent of the U.S. population feels the same way.

Source: (c) 2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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