Second generation Latinos are doing better than their parents, according to a new study. (Getty Images)

Second Generation Latinos: More prosperous, more “American”

Twenty percent of adult Latinos are children of immigrants.  These second-generation Latinos are doing substantially better than their parents on all socioeconomic measures, according to a new Pew Research report out today.  On all key socioeconomic measures, these adult children of immigrants have come closer to achieving the “American Dream” than their foreign-born parents, and in some cases they are doing better than the general Hispanic population.

“This modern immigration wave is now mature enough that we have a second-generation which is part of the workforce and is buying homes, and we can look at these snapshots based on empirical evidence,” says Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center.  “What we see is the classic American story, where the second generation is doing better, in fact significantly better, than the first,” Taylor says.

For example, household income was $48,400 in 2012 for second-generation Latinos, compared with $34,600 for immigrant Hispanics and $39,200 for all Hispanic adults. For Latinos over 25, 21 percent of the 2nd generation completed college, compared to 11 percent of  first-generation immigrants and 15 percent of all Hispanic adults over 25.  “Most Latino immigrants came here without a formal education so the jump in college completion among the second generation is significant,” says Taylor.

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When it comes to identity, 61 percent of second-generation Latinos consider themselves a “typical American,”  almost double the percentage from their parents’ generation, at 33 percent.  On intergroup relations, about half of second-generation Latinos say their group gets along well with other racial and ethnic groups.  About half of second-generation Latinos say almost or all their friends come from their same country of origin, whereas 64 percent of first-generation Latinos say all or most of their friends are from their place of origin.

On language, 93 percent of second-generation Latinos speak English well or very well, a stark difference from first-generation Hispanics.  Less than half of Latino immigrants say they speak English well, and 20 percent say they speak no English at all, so language proficiency makes a big leap in one generation.

Latinos are more politically liberal than other groups, and the second generation is more liberal than the first.  Seventy one percent of 2nd generation Latinos say they are or or lean Democrat, compared to 63 of  immigrants. Among the general public, only 49 percent identify or lean Democratic.  The second generation of Latinos is not as satisfied with the direction of the country, however.  Whereas 57 percent of first-generation immigrants said they were generally satisfied and 36 percent dissatisfied, among second generation Latinos it’s about half and half.

On home ownership, half of second-generation Latinos own their homes, compared to 43 percent of immigrants and 46 percent of all Hispanic householders.  Second-generation Latinos are less likely to be poor; 16 percent were poor compared to 23 percent for immigrants and 21 percent of all Hispanic adults.   On health insurance, about a third of second-generation Latinos are uninsured, whereas almost half of first-generation Hispanics do not have health insurance.  The uninsured rate for all Hispanics is 38 percent.

Second generation Latinos are much more optimistic about the prospect of getting ahead through hard work than the general U.S. population.  Seventy eight percent of Hispanics interviewed say most people can get ahead if they are willing to work hard.  Only 58 percent of U.S. adults feel the same, and in fact 40 percent say hard work is no guarantee of success.  And when it comes to rating their personal finances, 41 percent of 2nd generation Latinos says their finances are excellent or good compared to 27 percent of first-generation immigrants.

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Second-generation immigrants are substantially more likely to intermarry than the general population.  Twenty six percent of second-generation Latinos are married to someone from a different race or ethnic group, compared to 8 percent of immigrants and 8 percent of all U.S. adults. However, 2nd generation Latinos marry at lower rates than their parents’ generation; only 34 percent were likely to be married compared to 60 percent of their parents’ generation.

One big change from the first immigrant generation to the next is the number of births outside marriage.  Fifty two percent of second-generation Latina adults gave birth outside marriage, compared to 29 percent of immigrant Hispanic women. This, says Pew’s Paul Taylor, “is the only indicator which could be described as negative assimilation,” since the majority of social data point to less advantages for children born out of wedlock.

“Immigration is the great American story,” says Taylor. Referring to the data on second generation Latinos, Taylor says “it’s hard to say this is anything but a positive story.  It’s not all perfect, but it’s a positive story.”

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