Roll Over, Michael Barone—Even Fourth-Generation Mexicans Are Failing

Social scientists get a lot of guff for not being "real scientists". But I've always admired the best ones immensely.

Sure, an astronomer (say) can tell you with exactitude when the next solar eclipse will occur. Still, most people don't feel strongly about the timing of eclipses. It's easy to be objective when you deal with things rather than with people.

In contrast, human beings get passionate about what is uncovered by social scientists. In fact, much of what social scientists have learned has been gut-wrenching for the researchers themselves, who typically fall well to the left politically.

Social scientists can't always overcome their biases. But when they do, the results are admirable.

The newest example: the impressive multi-generational study of Mexican-American assimilation carried out by two UCLA sociologists, Vilma Ortiz [Email her]and Edward E. Telles [Email him ]of UCLA's Chicano Studies Research Center.

Their 2008 book, Generations of Exclusion: Mexican Americans, Assimilation, and Race, decisively concludes a long-running debate about Mexican immigrants.

Telles and Ortiz write:

"Despite sixty years of political and legal battles to improve the education of Mexican Americans, they continue to have the lowest average education levels and the highest high school dropout rates among major ethnic and racial groups in the United States. … However, leading analysts, apparently believing in the universality of assimilation, argue that this is the result of a large first and second generation population still adjusting to American society. … These and other scholars predict that Mexican Americans will have the same levels of education and socioeconomic status as the dominant non-Hispanic white population by the fourth generation."

East Coast pundits, such as Michael Barone and Tamar Jacoby, frequently suggest that, while Mexican Americans may appear to be lagging alarmingly, that's mostly because they've all just recently arrived from Mexico.

After all, whoever saw a Mexican in New York, Washington, or Boston before the last decade or two? So their future is wide open! Pigs could have wings!

This will happen by the third generation, or maybe the fourth—but in any case, Real Soon Now.

Due to "the great, slow, mysterious absorptive alchemy of assimilation" (to quote Jacoby's review in National Review of Barone's 2001 book The New Americans), the descendents of Mexican immigrants will no doubt be flourishing just like the descendents of the Ellis Island immigrants.