The Washington Post
breaks the astonishing news that there`s actually a second
generation of Latinos in the United States. Who could possibly have known that not all Mexican-Americans are immigrants? Nobody in Washington—or in New York, for that matter—ever noticed any Mexicans around before a few years ago. How could we in the East Coast media centers have foreseen that they would reproduce?
And just think, that implies that there will someday be a third
generation of Latinos!
And, it turns out, that this second generation of Mexicans isn`t doing all that well. Who could have possibly predicted that? Doesn`t it say on the Statue of Liberty
that all immigrants will rapidly join the middle class?
Struggles of the second generation
U.S.-born children of Latino immigrants fight to secure a higher foothold
By N.C. Aizenman
Javier Saavedra slumped his burly frame into a worn, plaid couch in the cramped basement room he shares with his girlfriend and their 2-year-old daughter, his expression darkening as he ticked off all the wrong turns that had gotten them stuck below the economy`s ground floor. Raised by Mexican immigrant parents, Saavedra was a gang member by 13, a high school dropout by 16 and a father by 21. Now 23, he has been trying to turn his life around since his daughter, Julissa, was born. But without a high school diploma, Saavedra was unable to find a job that paid enough for him and his girlfriend, Mayra Hererra, 20 and pregnant with their second child, to move out of her parents` brick home in Hyattsville. Even the dim, wood-paneled room piled with baby toys and large plastic bags of clothing was costing them $350 a month. "I get so upset with myself," Saavedra said. "I should have a better chance at a job [than our parents]. I want to be helping them with their bills, not them still helping me." Millions of children of Latino immigrants are confronting the same challenge as they come of age in one of the most difficult economic climates in decades. Whether they succeed will have consequences far beyond immigrant circles. As a result of the arrival of more than 20 million mostly Mexican and Central American newcomers in a wave that swelled in the 1970s and soared during the 1990s, the offspring of Latino immigrants now account for one of every 10 children, both in the United States and the Washington region. Largely because of the growth of this second generation, Latino immigrants and their U.S.-born children and grandchildren will represent almost a third of the nation`s working-age adults by mid-century, according to projections from U.S. Census Bureau data by Jeffrey S. Passel, a demographer with the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center in Washington. Not since the last great wave of immigration to the United States around 1900 has the country`s economic future been so closely entwined with the generational progress of an immigrant group. And so far, on nearly every measure, the news is troubling. Second-generation Latinos have the highest high school dropout rate — one in seven [sic] — of any U.S.-born racial or ethnic group and the highest teen pregnancy rate. These Latinos also receive far fewer college degrees and make significantly less money than non-Hispanic whites and other second-generation immigrants.
I realize that nobody in the East ever heard of Mexican-Americans before recently, but there are actually more than two generations in the U.S.
The UCLA sociology department tracked first through fifth generation Mexican-Americans, parents, children, and grandchildren in LA and San Antonio from 1965 through 2000. Edward E. Telles and Vilma Ortiz reported on the results in their 2008 book Generations of Exclusion: Mexican Americans, Assimilation, and Race
. They found that education progress stopped with the second generation, and that the fourth generation (whose grandparents
were born in America) was particularly unaccomplished:
"Sadly and directly in contradistinction to assimilation theory, the fourth generation differs the most from whites, with a college completion rate of only 6 percent [compared to 35 percent for whites of that era]."