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Hispanic immigrants get ahead, too
A study shows Latinos have matched or exceeded Europeans in achievement.
Orange County Register
Friday, May 23, 2003
The Associated Press

The children and grandchildren of Hispanic immigrants move up the economic and educational ladder in the United States as quickly as generations of European immigrants did, a new study says.

The finding contrasts with prevailing beliefs that Latin American immigrants haven't mirrored Europeans' generational advances because they make less of an effort to assimilate, take frequent trips back to their home countries and have faced discrimination, said James Smith, an economist at Rand, a nonprofit research group in Santa Monica.

Smith wrote the study, which appears in the May edition of the American Economic Review.

"There's a widespread view among both scholars and the general public that the Latino immigrant experience has been very different than the European experience and the Asian experience," Smith said Thursday.

"That view is just wrong. Across generations, Latinos have done just as well as the Europeans who came in the early part of this century, and in fact slightly better."

Smith said previous research used data from a very limited time period. In his study, Smith examined census and other material to measure the progress of Hispanic men and their descendants over more than a century, up to those born in 1974.

The study found Hispanic immigrants born between 1905 and 1909 had just a fifth-grade education. But their sons completed ninth grade and their grandsons graduated from high school. Those gains are even higher than European immigrants born during the same time period, Smith said.

Immigrants born during those same years earned 75 percent as much as U.S.-born white men over their lifetimes, according to the study. Their sons earned about 79 percent as much, and their grandsons almost 83 percent as much.

In general, third-generation Hispanics' income is only about 10 percent behind U.S.-born whites, taking into account educational differences, he said.

However, by the third generation, educational gains appear to drop off as Hispanics begin to look much like the rest of the U.S. population, the study found.

Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, a research group, cautions against making projections based on trends in the study.

"It's an interesting and valuable historical look at intergenerational progress," Suro said, but "that still doesn't answer the question we have, which is: Can the same patterns hold for today's immigrants and their offspring?"

Copyright 2003 The Orange County Register