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The More Things Change: Immigrants and the Children of Immigrants in the 1940s, the 1970s, and the 1990s

In: Issues in the Economics of Immigration

  • David Card
  • John DiNardo
  • Eugena Estes

Rising immigrant inflows have substantially affected the size and composition of the U.S. workforce. They are also exerting an even bigger intergenerational effect: at present one-in-ten native born children are in the 'second generation' born to immigrant parents. In this paper we present a comparative perspective on the economic performance of immigrants and their children, utilizing data from the 1940 and 1970 Censuses, and from recent (1994-96) Current Population Surveys. We find important intergenerational links between the economic status of immigrant fathers and the economic status and marriage patterns of their native born sons and daughters. Much of this linkage works through education: children of better-educated immigrants have higher education, earn higher wages, and are more likely to marry outside of their father's ethnic group. Despite the dramatic shift in the country-of-origin composition of U.S. immigrants since 1940, we find that the rate of intergenerational assimilation has changed little. As in the past, native born children of immigrants can expect to close 50-60 percent of the gap in relative economic performance experienced by their father's ethnic group.

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This chapter was published in:
  • George J. Borjas, 2000. "Issues in the Economics of Immigration," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number borj00-1.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 6057.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6057
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Orley Ashenfelter & Cecilia Rouse, 1997. "Income, Schooling, and Ability: Evidence from a New Sample of Identical Twins," NBER Working Papers 6106, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1986. "Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages S1-39, July.
    3. Solon, Gary, 1992. "Intergenerational Income Mobility in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 393-408, June.
    4. Baker, Michael & Benjamin, Dwayne, 1994. "The Performance of Immigrants in the Canadian Labor Market," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(3), pages 369-405, July.
    5. Borjas, George J, 1985. "Assimilation, Changes in Cohort Quality, and the Earnings of Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(4), pages 463-89, October.
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