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The Complexity of Immigrant Generations: Implications for Assessing the Socioeconomic Integration of Hispanics and Asians

  • Brian Duncan

    ()

    (University of Colorado Denver)

  • Stephen J. Trejo

    ()

    (University of Texas at Austin)

Much of the socioeconomic mobility achieved by U.S. immigrant families takes place across rather than within generations. When assessing the long-term integration of immigrants, it is therefore important to analyze differences not just between the foreign-born and U.S-born, but also across generations of the U.S.-born. Because of data limitations, however, virtually all studies of the later- generation descendants of immigrants rely on subjective measures of ethnic self-identification rather than arguably more objective measures based on the countries of birth of the respondent and his ancestors. In this context, biases can arise from “ethnic attrition†(e.g., U.S.-born individuals who do not self-identify as Hispanic despite having ancestors who were immigrants from a Spanish-speaking country). Analyzing 1994- 2010 data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), we present evidence that such ethnic attrition is sizeable and selective for the second- and third-generation populations of key Hispanic and Asian immigrant groups. In addition, our results suggest that ethnic attrition generates measurement biases that vary across national origin groups in direction as well as magnitude, and that correcting for these biases is likely to raise the socioeconomic standing of the U.S.-born descendants of most Hispanic immigrants relative to their Asian counterparts. Finally, although changes to the CPS Hispanic origin and race questions adopted in 2003 have substantially lowered attrition rates for second- and third- generation Hispanics and Asians, ethnic attrition remains a significant issue even with the improved questionnaire.

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Paper provided by Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London in its series CReAM Discussion Paper Series with number 1201.

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Date of creation: Jan 2012
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Handle: RePEc:crm:wpaper:1201
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  1. Alberto Bisin & Eleonora Patacchini & Thierry Verdier & Yves Zenou, 2011. "Ethnic Identity and Labor-Market Outcomes of Immigrants in Europe," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1103, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  2. Constant, Amelie F. & Zimmermann, Klaus F., 2009. "Work and Money: Payoffs by Ethnic Identity and Gender," IZA Discussion Papers 4275, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Borjas, George J. (ed.), 2007. "Mexican Immigration to the United States," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 2, number 9780226066325.
  4. Arthur Sakamoto & Huei-Hsia Wu & Jessie Tzeng, 2000. "The declining significance of race among American men during The latter half of the twentieth century," Demography, Springer, vol. 37(1), pages 41-51, February.
  5. Delia Furtado, 2006. "Human Capital and Interethnic Marriage Decisions," Working papers 2006-03, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  6. Reynolds Farley, 1991. "The new census question about ancestry: What did it tell us?," Demography, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 411-429, August.
  7. Alberto Bisin & Giorgio Topa & Thierry Verdier, 2004. "Religious Intermarriage and Socialization in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(3), pages 615-664, June.
  8. Mason, Patrick L., 2004. "Annual income, hourly wages, and identity Among Mexican Americans and other Latinos," MPRA Paper 11326, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Charles Hirschman, 2001. "The educational enrollment of immigrant youth: A test of the segmented-assimilation hypothesis," Demography, Springer, vol. 38(3), pages 317-336, August.
  10. Hoyt Bleakley & Aimee Chin, 2009. "Age at Arrival, English Proficiency, and Social Assimilation Among U.S. Immigrants," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0913, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  11. Hoyt Bleakley & Aimee Chin, 2004. "Language Skills and Earnings: Evidence from Childhood Immigrants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 481-496, May.
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