Hirschman and Kraly, 1990). And by the 1960s, there were only modest differences in socioeconomic status and in intergenerational mobility among whites, whatever their national origins (Duncan and Duncan, 1968; Featherman and Hauser, 1978: Chapter 8). The upward movement of Asian immigrants and their descendants was slower but, by the 1960s, Asian Americans were at least at parity with whites in terms of education and occupational status, although an income gap remained (Nee and Sanders, 1985; Hirschman and Wong, 1984). Generationally, the major disadvantaged groups in American society are not immigrants and their children; they are African Americans, American Indians, and Puerto Ricans.
Considerable uncertainty still surrounds the social and economic fortunes of the waves of immigrants who arrived in recent decades. Although it is too early to draw definitive conclusions, most studies show that, with few exceptions, recent immigrants and their children (the second generation) are doing relatively well (Barringer et al., 1993; Jasso and Rosenzweig, 1990; Portes and Rumbaut, 1996). This does not mean that parity has been reached, nor even that all recent groups of immigrants have escaped poverty, but simply that most of the newcomers are not completely isolated from the mainstream of American society: they work, live in neighborhoods, and go to school in proximity to the native-born population.
One of the most important indicators of social adaptation is the level of integration (or segregation) in residential areas. Residential integration is considered the linchpin of interethnic relations, since it opens the door to informal association in schools, playgrounds, and other places where close personal bonds and friendships are formed. In the initial years after arrival, the massive waves of immigrants in the early twentieth century clustered tightly together, but rising income levels and the passage of generations blurred residential segregation within a few decades (Lieberson, 1980: Chapter 9). The rapid pace of immigration in the last three decades has also created many new ethnic areas in major cities around the country. These have been interpreted by some as a sign of balkanization and a harbinger of long-term trends. But empirical research suggests that this may be simply a short-term response.
Some evidence in favor of eventual assimilation is registered in the consistent association between social class (as measured by education, occupation, and income) and residential integration (including suburbanization) among Hispanic and Asian Americans (Frey, 1995). As the ability of immigrants and their children to afford better housing grows, they seem to choose neighborhoods with more amenities over areas with more neighbors with similar ethnicity. This association contrasts with the trend for blacks, who—even if they have higher economic status—have continued to live in segregated neighborhoods (Massey and Denton, 1993). If immigrants, including Hispanics and Asians, have also faced discrimination in the housing market, it has been much less than that experienced by blacks.