Critical Review of Sociological Studies

1. Compelling Introduction (15 points): Significance of Topic & Context; Overview
of Purpose of the Paper; Roadmap that alludes to the organization of the paper (15
points). Remember your audience is an admissions committee for graduate school or a
potential employer who will be evaluating your critical thinking and writing skills. Please
write in first person. I want to hear your sociological voice and analysis of the research
you are reviewing. Good luck!
2. Body of Critical Review (60 points)
For full credit for each of the four reviews of sociological studies on a given topic in the
sociology of race and ethnicity I should be able to identify the following: Main Research
Question/Theory/anchoring concepts (5 points) methods/data including how race and/or
ethnicity is conceptualized or operationalized (5 points); Key Findings and Critical
Discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of this study in relation to the other relevant
readings we have done in class (5 points). Aim to critically review at least one
quantitative and one qualitative study. For the other two articles you can use any method
and or/ you can include a review of the literature. You should not use articles we have
read in class for the review but you are encouraged to make connections to articles that
we have read in class. They just cannot be the focus of the critical review.
3. Conclusions: Why Important for the Sociology of Race and Ethnicity? Who
Cares? What else should be done to better understand this topic (15 points).
4. References (10 points) Any style is fine but it must be consistent and include the
full citation (e.g., often students just list the name of the author and the title of the article,
but if the citation does not include the name of the journal, the year it was published and
the volume, number or page numbers and just places a weblink, it will be impossible for
me to tell if it’s a sociology journal that is peer-reviewed; incomplete references will not
receive full credit). If in doubt just follow the bibliography style used by any sociology
journal such as
Second-Generation Immigrants? The ‘‘2.5
Generation’’ in the United States n
S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, Public Policy Institute of California
Objective. This article takes issue with the way that second-generation immigrants
have been traditionally defined. In most studies, respondents are considered to be
‘‘second generation’’ if they are born in the United States and if at least one of their
parents was born outside the United States. This article considers whether the
experiences and outcomes of those with one U.S.-born parent and one foreign-born
parent (the ‘‘2.5 generation’’) are different from those with no U.S.-born parents
(the ‘‘2.0 generation’’) and those with two native-born parents (the ‘‘third
generation’’). Methods. The article analyzes data from the March Current
Population Survey (CPS) from 1999 to 2001. Results. The evidence indicates that
the 2.5 generation is a numerically significant population, and that it varies from
other groups in age structure, racial identification, educational attainment, and
income. Conclusions. In studying the U.S.-born children of immigrants, scholars
should avoid lumping together the 2.5 generation with those who have no nativeborn
parents. The members of the 2.5 generation also should be treated as distinct
from those born in the United States to two native-born parents.
There is now a rich and growing scholarly tradition in the study of
second-generation immigrants in the United States. From historical
treatments of the early waves of European immigrants (Hansen, 1938;
Handlin, 1951; Gordon, 1964) to contemporary research into the ‘‘new’’
second generation (Portes and Zhou, 1993; Perlmann and Waldinger, 1997;
Waters, 1999; Portes and Rumbaut, 2001), scholars have viewed secondgeneration
outcomes as central to the understanding of immigrant
adaptation and progress. The second generation figures prominently in
standard accounts of immigrant assimilation, in which outcomes such as
educational attainment, earnings, and English-language ability improve
markedly between the foreign born and their native-born children. The
second generation has also received considerable attention from contemporary
accounts of segmented assimilation, where socioeconomic
nDirect correspondence to S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, Research Fellow, Public Policy
Institute of California, 500 Washington Street, Suite 800, San Francisco, CA 94111
hramakrishnan@ppic.orgi. A replication data set is available from the author. An earlier
version of this article was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of
America, May 9–11, 2002, Atlanta, GA. I thank Thomas Espenshade, Cybelle Fox, Deborah
Garvey, Helen Marrow, Wendy Roth, Jennifer Van Hook, and Natasha Warikoo for their
comments and suggestions.
SOCIAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY, Volume 85, Number 2, June 2004
r2004 by the Southwestern Social Science Association
outcomes diverge by national origin, and can even decline between the first
and second immigrant generations.
This article takes issue with the way that second-generation immigrants
have been defined, in both the standard models of immigrant assimilation
and contemporary accounts of segmented assimilation. With few exceptions,
the scholarship on immigrant adaptation has defined the immigrant second
generation as native-born residents who have at least one foreign-born parent
(Borjas, 1999; Portes and Rumbaut, 2001). Such a formulation is
problematic because it conflates the experiences and outcomes of those
who have one native-born parent and one foreign-born parent (the ‘‘2.5
generation’’) with those who have two foreign-born parents (the ‘‘2.0
generation’’). The aggregation of 2.5-generation respondents with 2.0-
generation respondents may be warranted if the size of the former is
negligible when compared to the size of the latter, or if the demographic
characteristics and socioeconomic outcomes of the two groups are
indistinguishable. This study of immigrant descendants in the United
States finds none of these assertions to be true. Furthermore, the 2.5
generation also differs in significant ways from those with two native-born
parents (the third generation and higher). This analysis therefore indicates
that studies of immigrant adaptation in the United States should avoid
lumping together members of the 2.5 generation with those in the second
generation who have no native-born parents, and should also treat members
of the 2.5 generation as distinct from those in the native-born population
with two native-born parents.
Theoretical Background
For several decades, scholars of immigrant adaptation have been interested
in studying the U.S.-born children of immigrants, commonly referred to as
second-generation immigrants. The early historical and sociological
treatments on immigration considered the experiences and outcomes of
the second generation as key to understanding the long-term acculturation
of immigrants and their economic progress in the United States (Handlin,
1951; Gordon, 1964). In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in
the second generation, as children of the post-1965 wave of immigration
begin to reach their twenties and thirties (Portes and Zhou, 1993; Perlmann
and Waldinger, 1997; Waters, 1999; Portes and Rumbaut, 2001). Just as
before, scholars now focus on the experiences and outcomes of the second
generation in order to gain insights about the long-term adaptation and
progress of immigrants in the United States. Some studies have shown that
the children of immigrants still fare better than their first-generation parents
(Perlmann and Waldinger, 1997), and that they have better socioeconomic
outcomes than those in higher-immigrant generations (Chiswick,
1977). Other studies point to a more worrying scenario: the persistence of
Second-Generation Immigrants? 381
country-of-origin differences in socioeconomic outcomes (Borjas, 1999;
Portes and Zhou, 1993), and even stagnation and decline in measures such
as educational attainment and earnings (Gans, 1992; Borjas, 1999).
Although these various studies differ in their assessments of intergenerational
mobility, they do share one fundamental feature: the way they define
second-generation immigrants. In most cases, respondents are considered to
be ‘‘second generation’’ if they are born in the United States and if at least
one of their parents was born outside the United States. This formulation
conflates the experiences and outcomes of those who have two foreign-born
parents (the ‘‘2.0 generation’’) versus those who have one U.S.-born parent
and one foreign-born parent (the ‘‘2.5 generation’’). Furthermore, this
lumping of the 2.0 and 2.5 generations is done without any theoretical
justification as to why those in the second generation who have no nativeborn
parents should be treated the same as those who have one native-born
parent.1
There are good reasons to think that the presence of a native-born parent
makes a difference with respect to the experiences and outcomes of the
second generation. Here, I shall briefly introduce some possible sources of
variation and elaborate them further in the analysis that follows. First,
native-born individuals are more likely than immigrants to participate in
social networks that are composed of other native-born individuals (Alba,
1985). The lower level of participation of immigrants in social networks
composed of native-born individuals can be traced to factors such as
residential segregation, lower English-language proficiency, and lack of
participation in mainstream politics. Access and exposure to these networks
of the native born, in turn, can have significant effects on the socioeconomic
outcomes of children, as well as on their self-identification as immigrants
and ethnics.
The presence of a native-born parent can make a difference in other ways.
For example, couples made up of a native-born parent and a foreign-born
parent may have higher levels of educational attainment than couples made
up of two foreign-born parents. This is because native-born individuals tend
to have higher levels of education than most first-generation immigrants,
especially with regards to high school graduation.2 Furthermore, immigrants
who marry the native born tend to have higher levels of education and
English literacy than immigrants who marry other immigrants. Finally, the
presence of a native-born parent can signal differences in the racial
identification of children, with the 2.5 generation more likely to have
1
The lumping of the two groups may have been done because of concerns about sample
size, although this analysis indicates that the 2.5 generation constitutes a sizable proportion of
what has traditionally been termed the second generation. 2
Although it is generally true that the native born have levels of educational attainment
that are higher than those of the foreign born, immigrants from particular waves and certain
countries of origin (Cubans in the 1950s, Indians in the 1960s, etc.) possess higher levels of
educational attainment than the native born.
382 Social Science Quarterly
parents of different racial or ethnic groups than those in the 2.0 generation.3
Thus, parents of the 2.0 and 2.5 generations vary in important respects, all
of which may have significant implications for outcomes among the children
of immigrants, such as racial identity, educational attainment, and earnings.
As we shall discover shortly, those who have one native-born parent
constitute a large share of what has generally been defined as the second
generation. Yet, very few studies have separated the 2.5 generation from
those who have two foreign-born parents. A review of articles and books on
second-generation immigrants in the United States reveals only three
instances in the past few decades where scholars have separated out those
with a native-born parent from the rest of the second-generation population.
In a 1977 article in International Migration Review, Walter Martin and
Dudley Poston examine the extent to which European immigrant males are
able to convert their educational attainment into income. The authors posit
that the presence of a native-born parent should lead to higher returns to
education, although they do not speculate on the micro-level processes that
may be responsible for such differences. In their analysis of the Public Use
Sample of the 1970 Census, the authors find that those with a native-born
parent do indeed have higher returns to education, with the results strongest
among those with a native-born mother. Although Martin and Poston’s
study is an important first step in accounting for the effects of having a
native-born parent, it also has several limitations. First, the authors focus
exclusively on one relationship (the ability to convert education into
income) without paying attention to any of the other ways the presence of a
native-born parent may lead to different experiences and outcomes among
the children of immigrants. For instance, they do not explore any differences
in the demographic characteristics of the various populations. Nor do they
discuss differences in education levels, a factor that has direct bearing on
their outcome of interest. Finally, given that their study is based on males in
the 1970 Census, the authors’ findings may have limited applicability today,
not only with respect to the children of the post-1965 wave of immigrants,
but also to the men and women from the pre-1965 wave who are
considerably older today than they were in 1970.
There are two more recent studies of immigrant adaptation that
differentiate the U.S.-born children of immigrants based on the presence
of a native-born parent. In Ethnicities, an edited volume on the ‘‘new’’
second generation, Leif Jensen (2001) examines outcomes across immigrant
generations for various national-origin groups using data from the Current
Population Survey. As part of his bivariate analysis, Jensen separates out
those in the second generation with one foreign-born parent from those who
have two foreign-born parents. He finds that, for various outcomes such as
3
This is because immigrants who are married to other immigrants are likely to be from the
same country as their spouse, and are therefore more likely to share the same racial
identification than are couples in mixed-nativity marriages.
Second-Generation Immigrants? 383
earnings, educational attainment, and poverty status, those who have one
native-born parent are better off than those with no native-born parents.
Jensen’s study is limited, however, in that it does not control for other
demographic factors, such as age and gender, that may account for some of
the socioeconomic differences, nor does it provide any significance levels for
the bivariate relationships presented. Furthermore, there is no distinction
made in the gender of the native-born parent, nor is there a detailed
accounting of the demographic differences between the two populations.
Similar limitations can be found in Portes and Rumbaut’s Legacies (2001),
which shows that children with one native-born parent are less likely than
those with no native-born parents to speak a language other than English,
and are less likely to identify as ethnics or ‘‘hyphenated’’ Americans. Here,
too, however, the authors do not engage in a more comprehensive analysis of
how the 2.5 generation may differ from the 2.0 generation, and how the
presence of a native-born parent may affect outcomes such as education and
income.
This study seeks to provide a more detailed examination of the
demographic characteristics and socioeconomic outcomes of the 2.5
generation, especially as it compares to the 2.0 generation. There are a
few possible standards by which to judge whether those with one nativeborn
parent should be treated separately from those with no native-born
parents. One standard is the relative size of the two populations. If the size of
the 2.5 generation is trivial when compared to the size of the 2.0 generation,
it becomes difficult to justify the separation of the two groups because of the
inability to obtain reliable estimates of differences between the two
populations. Another standard to judge whether the two populations
should be separated or lumped together is whether they share similar
demographic characteristics such as age structure and racial composition.
Finally, we can also base our decisions on whether to separate out the 2.5
generation by examining group differences in outcomes such as educational
attainment and earnings. As the following analysis demonstrates, the 2.5
generation is distinct from the 2.0 generation in all three respects—relative
size, demographic characteristics, and socioeconomic outcomes.
Before proceeding with the analysis, however, it is important to note that
the term 2.5 generation is used as a convenient shorthand, much like
the term ‘‘third generation’’ has been used to refer to everyone born in
the United States to native-born parents (Borjas, 1999; Zhou, 2001). To the
extent that the labels ‘‘second generation’’ and ‘‘third generation’’ provide
meaningful ways to convey the presence of foreign-born parents and nativeborn
parents, respectively, this study uses the term ‘‘2.5 generation’’ to
signify those who have one foreign-born parent and one native-born parent.
It should also be noted that the term 2.5 generation used here is different
from the familiar distinction in historical Census data between the native
born of foreign parentage and the native born of mixed parentage
(Perlmann, 2001b). The Census definition of mixed parentage includes
384 Social Science Quarterly
those with one foreign-born parent and one native-born parent, but it also
includes those who have foreign-born parents from two different countries.
This latter group, which is included in this definition of the ‘‘2.0
generation,’’ accounts for about 6 percent of the entire second-generation
population. As we shall soon see, the 2.5 generation accounts for a much
greater proportion of the U.S.-born children of immigrants. Given that the
2.5 generation has received little scholarly attention so far, I set aside the
question of country-of-origin variation within the 2.0 generation and focus
instead on differences between these three major population groups: those in
the native-born population with no native-born parents, those with one
native-born parent, and those with two native-born parents.
Analysis and Results
For this analysis, I rely on the March Current Population Survey (1999–
2001) as the primary data source to examine group differences based on the
nativity of parents. The March CPS was chosen for several reasons. First, the
data set contains questions that are relevant for ascertaining the nativity of
respondents, as well as the nativity of their mothers and fathers. These
questions are important because they enable researchers to separate out
respondents in the 2.5 generation from those in the 2.0 generation.
Furthermore, they also make it possible to determine whether respondents
in the 2.5 generation have a native-born father or a native-born mother.
Another advantage of the Current Population Survey is that it is the only
data set with sample sizes large enough to account for the experiences and
outcomes of various racial groups and national origins. Finally, the CPS also
has the advantage of being a nationally representative sample with a
methodology that is relatively stable from year to year and that serves as the
central source of information regarding employment and income among
U.S. residents.
Group Size
As indicated earlier, it would not be necessary to disaggregate the 2.5
generation from the 2.0 generation if the former accounted for only a small
portion of the U.S.-born children of immigrants and if there were no
substantial differences in characteristics or outcomes between the two
groups. As Table 1 indicates, however, the first condition does not hold:
respondents with one native-born parent account for a large portion of what
has traditionally been defined as the second generation (i.e., those born in
the United States to at least one foreign-born parent). Overall, those with
one native-born parent account for nearly one-half of the second-generation
population. Indeed, when the analysis is limited to the ‘‘old’’ second
Second-Generation Immigrants? 385
generation (those born before 1965), the 2.5 generation accounts for a larger
proportion of the population than those with two foreign-born parents.
Even among the children of immigrants born after 1965, those with one
native-born parent account for a substantial portion of those traditionally
defined as second-generation immigrants (41 percent). Thus, the initial
condition for separating respondents in the 2.5 generation from those in the
2.0 generation (nontrivial group size) is clearly met, both with respect to
overall population as well as within the old and new waves of secondgeneration
immigrants.
It is still possible, however, that children of mixed-nativity marriages may
account for a small proportion of respondents among particular nationalorigin
groups. Table 2 presents the proportion of 2.0- and 2.5-generation
respondents by the national origin of their parents.4 As the figures indicate,
TABLE 1
U.S.-Born Children of Immigrants by Nativity of Parents and Birth Era
(Weighted Tabulations)
All
Birth Era
Pre-1965 Post-1965
2.0 generation 53.7% 46.2% 58.8%
2.5 generation 46.3% 53.8% 41.2%
N 45,024 17,160 27,864
SOURCE: March Current Population Survey 1999–2001.
TABLE 2
U.S.-Born Children of Immigrants by National Origin of Parents
(Weighted Tabulations)
Latin Am. Mexico Asia Middle East
2.0 generation 62.5% 65.1% 68.3% 52.6%
2.5 generation 37.5% 34.9% 31.7% 47.4%
N 20,389 13,942 3,764 1,259
Europe Canada Australia/NZ Caribbean Africa
2.0 generation 45.2% 20.3% 10.8% 61.1% 57.8%
2.5 generation 54.8% 79.7% 89.2% 38.9% 42.2%
N 14,611 2,815 74 544 339
SOURCE: March Current Population Survey 1999–2001.
4
In the next section, the issue of racial identification of the 2.0 and 2.5 generations, as well
as patterns of interracial marriage among immigrants, will be considered in greater detail.
386 Social Science Quarterly
respondents in the 2.5 generation account for a significant proportion of the
children of immigrants from different regions of the world. They account
for about 38 percent of those with parents from Latin America and 32
percent of those with parents from Asia. Those in the 2.5 generation also
constitute over one-half of the children of immigrants from Europe, and
over three-quarters of those with at least one parent from Canada. Thus,
respondents with mixed-nativity origins constitute a sizable proportion of
the second generation, not only in the general population but also with
respect to particular subgroups, whether they be defined by birth eras or
national origin.
Demographic Characteristics
The fact that the 2.5 generation is of comparable size to the 2.0 generation
may not be interesting to scholars of immigrant adaptation if the two groups
were indistinguishable, either in terms of their demographic profile or in
outcomes such as educational attainment and earnings. In this section, I
examine the demographic characteristics of the 2.5 generation in greater
detail and compare them to those of the 2.0 generation. In particular, I
expect to find significant differences in the age structure and racial
composition of the two populations. We have already seen that secondgeneration
children with a native-born parent are more prevalent among
those born prior to 1965 than those born afterward. Differences in the
proportion of 2.5-generation respondents can also be found in more detailed
breakdowns of second-generation immigrants by birth cohorts. The highest
proportion of 2.5-generation births occurs between 1935 and 1960, roughly
corresponding to the periods of relatively low immigration to the United
States. This period spans the end of the early European wave and the
beginning of the contemporary wave of immigration to the United States.
As Joel Perlmann (2001a) has noted, those entering the United States in the
latter part of an immigrant wave are more likely to find native-born spouses
of the same national-origin group and are less likely to experience
discrimination from the host society. This analysis of CPS data indicates
that a high proportion of marriages between the native born and foreign
born also tends to occur in the early parts of an immigrant wave. This
pattern may be the result of gender disparities among the early entrants in an
immigrant wave and the concomitant scarcity of other immigrants available
for marriage. A small proportion of these mixed-nativity marriages may also
be due to the entry of foreign-born spouses of U.S. veterans after the end of
World War II.5 Whatever the reason, these differences in the proportion of
2.0- and 2.5-generation immigrants by birth cohort can, in turn, be
5
However, the number of war brides did not total more than 50,000 between 1945 and
1965 (Reimers, 2001).
Second-Generation Immigrants? 387
expected to produce significant variation in the age structures of the two
populations. In particular, we can expect the 2.5 generation to be older, on
average, than the 2.0 generation and to predominate the ranks of secondgeneration
immigrants who are between the ages of 40 and 65.
Figure 1 presents the age structure of second-generation immigrants based
on the nativity of their parents. As expected, those in the 2.5 generation are
older than those in the 2.0 generation (34.6 vs. 31.3), a difference that is
statistically significant at the 0.01 level.6 Another pattern emerges, however,
when the groups are divided between those born before 1965 and afterward.
Among those born before 1965, the 2.5 generation actually has a younger
age structure than the 2.0 generation (an average of 57.5 vs. 67.4) because
most 2.5-generation children in this era were born after 1935. By contrast,
among those born after 1965, the 2.5 generation has a slightly older age
structure (an average of 14.0 vs. 11.7). Since the 2.0 generation is more
predominant among children of immigrants born after 1965 (see Table 1),
the overall age structure of the 2.0 generation is still younger than the age
10% 5% 0% 5% 10%
0-4
5-9
10-14
15-19
20-24
25-59
30-34
35-39
40-44
45-49
50-54
55-59
60-64
65-69
70-74
75-79
80-84
85-90
2.5 Generation
2.0 Generation
Age
FIGURE 1
Age Structure of U.S.-Born Children of Immigrants, by Nativity of Parents
SOURCE: March Current Population Survey 1999–2001.
6
The statistical significance of differences in demographic characteristics is determined by
t-tests. All the demographic differences noted in this analysis are significant at the 0.01 level
unless noted otherwise in the text.
388 Social Science Quarterly
structure of the 2.5 generation. Finally, it should be noted that even though
the 2.0 generation predominates the ranks of more recent children of
immigrants, the two populations do share one similarity: respondents under
the age of 30 account for about one-half of their total respective populations
(60 percent in the case of the 2.0 generation; 40 percent in the case of the
2.5 generation).
While considering the demographic profile of the 2.0 and 2.5 generations,
it is also important to take into account differences in racial and ethnic
composition. Figure 2 presents the racial/ethnic profile of the two
populations for those born before 1965 and afterward. This study follows
the convention of many racial/ethnic classifications found in many other
studies that use CPS data. The term ‘‘Latino’’ refers to Hispanics of any race
since the CPS asks questions about race and Hispanic origin separately.
Furthermore, the term ‘‘white’’ refers only to non-Hispanic whites, ‘‘black’’
to non-Hispanic blacks, and ‘‘Asian’’ to non-Hispanic Asians. As Figure 2
indicates, there is virtually no difference in the racial composition of the 2.0
and 2.5 generations among those born before 1965. Asian Americans and
Latinos constitute only a slightly larger proportion of the 2.0 generation
than the 2.5 generation, with differences that are not statistically significant.
Blacks, however, do form a larger share of those who have one native-born
parent than those who have no native-born parents. Thus, with the
exception of blacks, differences in the racial composition of the 2.0 and 2.5
generations in the pre-1965 wave are neither substantial nor statistically
significant.
In the post-1965 wave, however, there are remarkable differences in the
racial composition of second-generation immigrants based on whether or
not they have a native-born parent. Second-generation blacks are the only
ones that make up a roughly equal proportion of the 2.0 and 2.5 generations
among respondents born after 1965. Whites account for only 15 percent of
the 2.0 generation, but they constitute a majority of those in the 2.5
generation. By contrast, Latinos and Asian Americans make up a much
larger proportion of those who have two foreign-born parents than those
who have one foreign-born parent and one native-born parent. The
difference in racial composition is especially strong in the case of Asian
Americans, who constitute over 20 percent of the 2.0 generation, but only 8
percent of the 2.5 generation.
There are at least two reasons why the proportion of 2.5-generation
immigrants is higher for white respondents than for those in other racial
groups. First, those with an immigrant parent from Europe, Canada,
Australia, or New Zealand are more likely to be in the 2.5 generation than
those with an immigrant parent from another part of the world. Thus, the
children of non-Hispanic white immigrants have a higher likelihood of
being in the 2.5 generation than the children of immigrants from Latin
America and Asia. Another reason for the higher proportion of whites in the
2.5 generation is that those who have exactly one immigrant parent from
Second-Generation Immigrants? 389
Asia or Latin America are more likely to have a native-born parent who is
white than a native-born parent of another race.7 So, we see that the
demographic profile of the 2.0 and 2.5 generations differ based on whether
we are referring to children of immigrants born before 1965 or afterward.
Among the old second generation, the primary difference between the two
populations is in their age structures—those in the 2.5 generation are
younger than those in the 2.0 generation. In the new second generation,
variations in age structure are still present, but stronger differences lie in the
racial composition of the U.S.-born children of immigrants.8
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
2.0
Generation,
pre-1965
wave
2.5
Generation,
pre-1965
wave
2.0
Generation,
post-1965
wave
2.5
Generation,
post-1965
wave
Asian
Latino
Black
White
FIGURE 2
Racial Composition of the 2.0 and 2.5 Generations by Birth Era
SOURCE: March Current Population Survey 1999–2001.
7
Although the CPS does not include measures on the racial identification of the parents of
respondents for those who do not live in the same household as their parents, it is possible to
gauge the white bias in interracial marriages of mixed-nativity couples using two methods.
First, we can examine the racial identification of couples in the Current Population Survey
whose households contain one immigrant spouse and one native-born spouse. An
examination of interracial marriages among Asian and Latino immigrant respondents in
the Current Population Survey who are married to native-born spouses indicates that the race
of the native-born spouse is white greater than 75 percent of the time. We can also surmise
the white bias in racial intermarriage among the parents of the 2.5 generation by examining
the racial and ethnic identification of those in the 2.5 generation with a parent from Asia (42
percent white, 49 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 9 percent other), Latin America (19 percent
white, 78 percent Latino, 3 percent other), and Africa or the Caribbean (33 percent white, 57
percent black, 10 percent other). 8
Admittedly, part of the reason why whites are more common among 2.5-generation
respondents is also due to the design of the CPS, which does not allow for multiple racial
identifications. Thus, to the extent that respondents with one white parent would have
chosen Asian or black in addition to white, the differences in racial composition between the
2.0 and 2.5 generations would diminish accordingly. Unfortunately, other data sets, such as
the 2000 Census, that contain data on multiple racial identifications do not also contain
information on parents’ nativity.
390 Social Science Quarterly
There is one final aspect of racial identification that merits attention when
considering differences in the demographic profile of the 2.0 and 2.5
generations: the extent to which members of each group are the children of
interracial marriages. As indicated earlier, we might expect those in the
second generation with one native-born parent to be more likely to have
parents of different races than those in the second generation with two
foreign-born parents. This is because immigrants who are married to other
immigrants are likely to be from the same country as their spouse, either
because the two are married before entering the United States or because
unmarried immigrants often return to the home country within a relatively
short period to find a spouse. The Current Population Survey does not
provide information on the racial identification of the parents of
respondents, unless they happen to live in the same household as the
respondent. Using data from parents and children in the same household
may suffice for second-generation respondents under the age of 18, but it
does not cover the overwhelming majority of adult second-generation
immigrants. However, it is still possible to approximate the relative
likelihood of respondents in the 2.0 and 2.5 generations to have parents of
different races by examining the marital patterns of first-generation
immigrant adults. Figure 3 presents the rates of interracial marriage among
first-generation immigrants who identify as white, black, Latino, or Asian/
Pacific Islander. The results are divided between those immigrants with
native-born spouses and foreign-born spouses, as well as those immigrants
arriving before 1965 and thereafter.9
For both pre-1965 and post-1965 immigrants, there are strong differences
in the likelihood of interracial marriage between those immigrants who have
a native-born spouse and those who have a foreign-born spouse. Among
Asian immigrants, for instance, the rate of interracial marriage is over 80
percent among those who have a native-born spouse, but is only 13 percent
for those who have a foreign-born spouse. Similarly among Latinos, the rate
of interracial marriage is about 65 percent for immigrants with a native-born
spouse, but is less than 20 percent for those with an immigrant spouse.
These differences in the rates of intermarriage between immigrants with
native-born spouses and foreign-born spouses hold in both the pre-1965 and
post-1965 waves of immigration. So, even though we do not have data on
the racial identification of the parents of second-generation respondents in
the CPS, data on marriage patterns among first-generation immigrants
suggests that children in the 2.5 generation are much more likely to have
parents of different races than children in the 2.0 generation. At the same
time, internativity marriages are not synonymous with interracial marriages.
9
Using contemporary data on immigrants is probably less reliable among children of the
pre-1965 waves of immigrants because of the greater likelihood that their parents are
censored from the sample because of death. Problems of inaccuracy also creep in when
considering those in the second generation whose parents are either divorced or who have
remarried someone of a different immigrant generation than the child’s biological father.
Second-Generation Immigrants? 391
Thus, for instance, over 30 percent of internativity marriages among Latino
immigrants involve a native-born Latino, and the figure for whites is 40
percent. Still, it is important to note that racial composition of respondents
and their parents vary significantly between those in the 2.0 and 2.5
generations.
Socioeconomic Outcomes in the 2.0 and 2.5 Generations
To summarize the findings so far, we have seen that the 2.5 generation
constitutes a large share of the U.S.-born children of immigrants, and that
they vary from the 2.0 generation in important demographic characteristics
such as age structure and racial composition. Now, I investigate whether
there are significant differences in socioeconomic outcomes associated with
the presence or absence of a native-born parent. Among the more important
indicators of socioeconomic status, I consider personal income and
educational attainment, the latter measured as the likelihood of dropping
out of high school or of graduating from a four-year college, and also as the
total years of schooling. As indicated previously, we can expect the 2.5
generation to fare better than the 2.0 generation in both educational
attainment and earnings. This expectation is based on the premise that
having a native-born parent affords children with greater knowledge about
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
pre-1965 post-1965 pre-1965 post-1965
White
Black
Latino
Asian
Native-Born Spouse Foreign-Born Spouse
race of
immigrant
spouse
FIGURE 3
Proportion of Married Immigrants with Spouse of Another Race, by Race
of Immigrant
SOURCE: March Current Population Survey 1999–2001.
392 Social Science Quarterly
opportunities in the mainstream economy, as well as greater access to
pathways that lead to higher education and higher income.
In Table 3, I present differences in various socioeconomic outcomes
between those in the 2.0 and 2.5 generations, first as a set of bivariate
relationships and then as coefficients in multivariate regressions. The results
conform to expectations regarding the advantages associated with having one
native-born parent versus having no native-born parents. The presence of a
native-born father is associated with a 29 percent increase in the rate of
college education. Similarly, those with a native-born mother are 27 percent
more likely to have a college degree than those who have two immigrant
parents. It should be noted that both these differences between the 2.0 and
2.5 generations are significant at the 0.001 level.
The data from the March CPS also indicate that those in the 2.5
generation are less likely to have dropped out of high school than those in
the 2.0 generation. Indeed, the rate of high school dropouts among
respondents with two immigrant parents is nearly twice as high as among
those respondents with an immigrant mother and a native-born father.
Similar results hold when educational attainment is operationalized as a
continuous variable, with those in the 2.5 generation having nearly one
additional year of schooling than those in the 2.0 generation. Finally, given
the differences in educational attainment among the various groups, it is not
surprising to find that there are also significant group differences in earnings,
with those in the 2.5 generation earning 26 to 28 percent more than those in
the second generation with no native-born parents.
It is possible, however, that the divergence in socioeconomic outcomes
between the groups considered are due entirely to differences in age structure
and racial composition noted in the previous section. Thus, it is important
to control for factors such as age and race while trying to determine whether
TABLE 3
Educational Attainment and Personal Income
Among Second-Generation Immigrants, Age 25 and Higher
High
School
Dropout
pValue
College
Graduate
pValue
Education
(Years)
pValue
Personal
Income
pValue
2.0 generation 22.5% 23.5% 12.3 $28,625
2.5 generation 12.0% 0.001 30.0% 0.001 13.1 0.001 $36,301 0.001
—Native-born
father
10.6% 0.001 30.3% 0.001 13.1 0.001 $36,727 0.001
—Native-born
mother
13.2% 0.001 29.9% 0.001 13.1 0.001 $35,947 0.001
N 21,417 21,417 21,417 21,417
SOURCE: March Current Population Survey 1999–2001.
Second-Generation Immigrants? 393
there are systematic differences in outcomes between those in the 2.0
generation and the 2.5 generation. Table 4 presents differences in
educational outcomes between the various groups after controlling for age,
race, and gender. In the case of dropping out of high school and attaining a
college degree, the results are presented as logit coefficients because the
outcomes of interest are dichotomous variables. When analyzing group
differences in earnings and years of schooling, I use linear OLS regressions
that control for the same set of factors. In all instances, the reference group is
the 2.0 generation and the sample is confined to those who have
traditionally been defined as second generation (i.e., the native born who
have at least one foreign-born parent).
The results from the multivariate regressions indicate that there are still
significant differences in the likelihood of graduating from high school and
completing a four-year college degree, even after controlling for factors such
as age, race, and gender. The odds of dropping out of high school are 27
percent lower among those in the 2.5 generation with a native-born father,
and 22 percent lower among those with a native-born mother. Both these
relationships are statistically significant at the 0.001 level. Turning next to
the attainment of a four-year college degree, we see that controlling for other
demographic factors does wipe out the significance and magnitude of the
educational advantage among those in the 2.5 generation with a native-born
TABLE 4
Educational Attainment and Personal Income
Among Second-Generation Immigrants
High School
Dropout
College
Graduate
Education
(Years) Personal Income
b
pValue
b
pValue
b
pValue
b
pValue
Native-born
father
 0.315 0.001  0.047 0.265 0.135 0.005 1,222.29 0.050
Native-born
mother
 0.252 0.001 0.117 0.003 0.262 0.001 2,287.65 0.001
Age 0.053 0.001  0.031 0.001  0.058 0.001  98.88 0.001
Black 0.272 0.172 0.008 0.944  0.120 0.434  7,615.00 0.001
Latino 1.689 0.000  1.283 0.001  2.150 0.001  4,606.98 0.001
Asian 0.018 0.870 0.162 0.026  0.107 0.245  3,707.89 0.002
Female 0.010 0.796  0.397 0.001  0.388 0.001  17,942.82 0.001
Education
(years)
4,238.00 0.001
Constant  5.032 0.001 1.031 0.001 16.811 0.001  8,281.71 0.001
N 21,417 21,417 21,417 21,417
R2 0.03 0.07 0.16 0.20
SOURCE: March Current Population Survey 1999–2001.
394 Social Science Quarterly
father. However, those with an immigrant father and a native-born mother
are still more likely to have a college degree than those in the 2.0 generation.
Finally, the higher level of educational attainment among 2.5-generation
respondents is also evident in the number of years of schooling. Using this
measure, those with a native-born mother have the greatest advantage with
respect to the 2.0 generation, although even those with a native-born father
have a statistically significant advantage. So, we see that most of the
differences in educational attainment between those in the 2.0 and 2.5
generations cannot simply be attributed to differences in demographic
characteristics such as age structure and racial composition. The presence of
a native-born parent, especially of a native-born mother, makes a significant
difference in the likelihood that the children of immigrants graduate from
high school and obtain college degrees.
Given that education is still significantly related to generational status in
the multivariate context, it is possible that controlling for education will
render insignificant the differences in income between those in the 2.0 and
2.5 generations. As Table 4 indicates, however, group differences in personal
income still remain. Those with an immigrant father and a native-born
mother have incomes that are about $2,300 higher than those with two
foreign-born parents, a difference that is significant at the 0.001 level.
Finally, even though respondents in the 2.5 generation with a native-born
father are not significantly more likely to have college degrees, they still earn
about $1,200 more than respondents in the 2.0 generation. Thus, there are
enduring differences in personal income that are not solely due to differences
in age structure, racial composition, or educational attainment.10
Comparisons to the Third Generation
So far, we have seen that the 2.5 generation is distinct from the 2.0
generation in terms of important demographic characteristics and socioeconomic
outcomes. The question still remains, however, as to whether
those with one native-born parent and one foreign-born parent should be
lumped together with those who have two native-born parents (i.e., the
‘‘third generation’’). Based on what we already know about the 2.5
generation, we can expect to find differences with the third generation in
demographic characteristics such as age structure and racial composition,
and perhaps even in socioeconomic outcomes. First, the age structures of
the two populations are likely to be different because the size of 2.5-
generation birth cohorts is sensitive to immigration flows, whereas the size of
10Having parents of different races may account for some of this residual difference.
Although these models control for the racial identification of respondents, this information
does not adequately identify the racial identification of each parent.
Second-Generation Immigrants? 395
third-generation birth cohorts is not. The racial composition of the two
groups will also be different because of the greater predominance of blacks
and whites in the native-born population. Finally, the two groups may also
vary in socioeconomic outcomes, although it is unclear whether those with
two native-born parents will have higher levels of education and earnings
than those with one native-born parent and one foreign-born parent.
Although the presence of an additional native-born parent may increase the
level of access to mainstream social networks, those in the 2.5 generation
may also be advantaged by having parents with higher levels of educational
attainment.
A separate analysis of the March CPS data set indicates that the 2.5
generation is distinct from the third generation in several respects. As
expected, the age structures of the two groups are different, with the 2.5
generation slightly older than the third generation (34.6 vs. 35.1), a
difference that is statistically significant at the 0.05 level. Stronger differences
emerge when the populations are divided between those born before 1965
and afterward. Among those born before 1965, the 2.5 generation is
substantially older than the third generation (57.5 vs. 53.2). Among those
born after 1965, however, the 2.5 generation is actually younger than the
third generation (14.0 vs. 16.7). In both cases, the group differences are
statistically significant at the 0.01 level. As indicated earlier, the size of the
2.5 generation is sensitive to immigration flows in ways that the third
generation is not. Thus, many 2.5-generation births occurred prior to the
baby boom, accounting for the older age structure among those born before
1965. Finally, the younger age structure among the 2.5 generation after
1965 is most likely due to the fact that most immigrants to the United States
in the contemporary wave have arrived in the last 15 years.
There are also considerable differences in the racial composition of the
two groups. Among both pre-1965 and post-1965 birth cohorts, the 2.5
generation has a greater proportion of Latinos and Asians, and a smaller
proportion of blacks, than the third-generation population. Differences in
the proportion of whites are found only among post-1965 waves, with
whites accounting for 74 percent of the third generation but only 51 percent
of the 2.5-generation population. Finally, there are significant differences in
educational attainment and earnings between the two groups in both
bivariate and multivariate contexts. In the bivariate context, 2.5-generation
immigrants earn 14 percent more than those in the third generation, are less
likely to have dropped out of high school (12 percent vs. 13 percent), and
more likely to have completed college (30 percent vs. 25 percent). Even after
controlling for the effects of age, racial composition, and gender, these
differences in outcomes remain statistically significant at the 0.001 level. So,
we see that 2.5-generation immigrants have demographic characteristics and
socioeconomic outcomes that are distinct, not only from those in the second
generation with no native-born parents, but also from those in the third
generation with two native-born parents.
396 Social Science Quarterly
Conclusions
This study has provided compelling reasons as to why those who have one
native-born parent (or the ‘‘2.5 generation’’) should be analyzed separately
from those in the second generation who have no native-born parent (the
‘‘2.0 generation’’). First, the 2.5 generation accounts for a large proportion
of the children of immigrants; indeed, among those born before 1965, the
members of this generation constitute a majority of the children of
immigrants born in the United States. Even among particular nationalorigin
groups, those who have one native-born parent constitute a sizable
proportion of the second-generation population. Another reason the 2.5
generation should be separated from the 2.0 generation is that the two
groups differ considerably in their demographic characteristics. Among
children of immigrants born before 1965, the biggest difference is found in
the age structure of the two populations, whereas the most noticeable
demographic difference among post-1965 cohorts is in the racial
composition of the two groups. Finally, as this analysis has shown, the
two groups also have significant differences in socioeconomic outcomes. In
most cases, the presence of a native-born parent affords children with greater
chances at higher education and more success in the mainstream economy.
Finally, the 2.5 generation is also distinct from the third generation in terms
of the various measures used in this analysis—age structure, racial
composition, educational attainment, and earnings.
There are still several unanswered questions and areas for further research
in the study of the 2.5 generation. First, we need a better explanation of why
the presence of a native-born father leads to the best socioeconomic
outcomes in some instances (high school completion), but not so in others,
where the highest outcomes are found among those who have a native-born
mother (earnings and the attainment of a college degree). We also need a
more detailed examination into why those with one native-born parent and
one foreign-born parent are advantaged relative to those with two nativeborn
parents. Comparisons between the 2.0, 2.5, and third generations
would also benefit from data sources that provide more detailed information
on respondents’ parents, including their individual racial identification and
educational attainment. Finally, we need to have a better comprehension of
the circumstances under which children in the 2.5 generation identify with
the immigrant parent versus the native-born parent. One could imagine that
this latter question will depend on factors such as the father’s involvement in
the child’s upbringing, as well as patterns of divorce and remarriage among
immigrant men and women who have native-born spouses. To answer all
these questions, we need not only longitudinal surveys with information on
the nativity of parents and other parent characteristics, but also more
qualitative studies of children with exactly one native-born parent.
There are many other aspects of immigrant adaptation that could be
related to the presence or absence of a native-born parent. For instance, an
Second-Generation Immigrants? 397
analysis of the two-city Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS)
indicates that English-language proficiency is higher among the 2.5
generation, and other studies have shown that bilingual proficiency is
higher among those in the 2.0 generation (Portes and Rumbaut, 2001).
Furthermore, we can expect processes of political socialization and the
acquisition of party identification to proceed along different paths for those
in the 2.0 and 2.5 generations. Other questions related to immigrant
adaptation, such as participation in transnational activities, may also be
implicated in differences between the 2.0 and 2.5 generations. For instance,
one would expect that the extent to which second-generation children visit
their immigrant parent’s country of origin will depend on factors such as the
proximity of extended families affiliated with each parent, as well as the
involvement of each extended family in the upbringing of these mixednativity
children.
Some of these questions may require the collection of new data; others
will simply involve the recoding of existing data to take into account the
nativity of the respondent’s mother and father separately. By consistently
disaggregating those in the second generation with a native-born parent
from those who have no native-born parents, we can gain a better
understanding of the divergent experiences and outcomes among the U.S.-
born children of immigrants.
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