7
Contemporary Immigration and the Dynamics of Race and Ethnicity

Min Zhou

This article examines three interrelated questions: (1) To what extent does contemporary immigration differ from immigration at the turn of the century, and how may these differences affect our approach to the issues of, and concerns about, immigration? (2) How have settlement patterns of new immigrants transformed America’s urban centers and the nature of racial and ethnic relations in these centers? (3) What opportunities and challenges have new immigrants and their offspring faced as they converge in America’s largest urban centers, and will they be able to advance socioeconomically if they follow the path taken by earlier European immigrants?

IMMIGRATION THEN AND NOW

General Trends

Contemporary immigration refers to the period of large-scale, non-European immigration to the United States from the time immigration began to accelerate in the late 1960s through the mid-1990s, following a long hiatus of restricted immigration (Massey, 1995). Between 1971 and 1995, the United States admitted approximately 17.1 million immigrants, including 1.6 million formerly unauthorized aliens and 1.1 million Special Agricultural Workers1 (SAW) who were granted permanent-resident sta-

1  

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 (Public Law 99–603; Act of 11/ 6/86), was passed to control and deter illegal immigration to the United States. Its major



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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I 7 Contemporary Immigration and the Dynamics of Race and Ethnicity Min Zhou This article examines three interrelated questions: (1) To what extent does contemporary immigration differ from immigration at the turn of the century, and how may these differences affect our approach to the issues of, and concerns about, immigration? (2) How have settlement patterns of new immigrants transformed America’s urban centers and the nature of racial and ethnic relations in these centers? (3) What opportunities and challenges have new immigrants and their offspring faced as they converge in America’s largest urban centers, and will they be able to advance socioeconomically if they follow the path taken by earlier European immigrants? IMMIGRATION THEN AND NOW General Trends Contemporary immigration refers to the period of large-scale, non-European immigration to the United States from the time immigration began to accelerate in the late 1960s through the mid-1990s, following a long hiatus of restricted immigration (Massey, 1995). Between 1971 and 1995, the United States admitted approximately 17.1 million immigrants, including 1.6 million formerly unauthorized aliens and 1.1 million Special Agricultural Workers1 (SAW) who were granted permanent-resident sta- 1   The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 (Public Law 99–603; Act of 11/ 6/86), was passed to control and deter illegal immigration to the United States. Its major

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I tus under the provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (hereafter IRC A). The scale of contemporary immigration almost matched that during the first quarter of the century (17.2 million admissions between 1901 and 1925), when immigration to the United States was at its peak. Although similar in number, the annual admission trends in these two peak periods looked quite different, as shown in Figure 7–1. From 1901 to 1925, annual admission numbers fluctuated, with several noticeable ebbs and flows. In contrast, from 1971 to 1995, the inflow was fairly steady. Annual admission numbers were less than 500,000 from 1971 to 1978, then gradually increased from 1978 to 1988. Then in 1989, annual admission numbers suddenly surged above the 1 million mark in a spurt that lasted until 1992. Afterward, the admission flow subsided, but fell to a level higher than the pre-1989 mark; and it has since remained steady and substantially large. The upsurge in the late 1980s impressed the media and the public, who mistook it for an increase in the overall size of the flow. In fact, the 1989–1992 increase (reflected in the triangular peak in Figure 7–1) was almost entirely the result of legalization, permitted by IRCA, of formerly undocumented immigrants. In theory, all the IRCA legalizees should have been residing in the country for a considerable period of time prior to 1989, though a substantial portion of those whose status was legalized by the SAW program turned out to be relatively recent arrivals. Nonetheless, the more accurate description of trends in legal admission separates the legalizees from other legal immigrants, as shown in Figure 7–1. Clearly, had it not been for IRCA, immigration trends would have been stable, though heading in a gradual, upward direction.     provisions stipulate legalization of undocumented aliens, legalization of certain agricul-tural workers, sanctions for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers, and increased enforcement at U.S. borders. Special Agricultural Workers (SAW) are aliens who performed labor in perishable agricultural commodities for a specified period of time and were admitted for temporary, and then permanent, residence under a provision of IRCA. Up to 350,000 aliens who worked at least 90 days in each of the three years preceding May 1, 1986, were eligible for Group I temporary resident status. Eligible aliens who qualified under this requirement but applied after the 350,000 limit was met, and aliens who per-formed labor in perishable agricultural commodities for at least 90 days during the year ending May 1, 1986, were eligible for Group II temporary resident status. Adjustment to permanent resident status is essentially automatic for both groups; however, aliens in Group I were eligible on December 1, 1989, and those in Group II were eligible one year later on December 1, 1990.

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I FIGURE 7–1 Immigration to the United States: 1901 to 1925 versus 1971 to 1995. SOURCE: U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (1997). Contemporary Immigration in Historical Perspective From a historical standpoint, the trend of contemporary immigration differs from the earlier trend in five significant ways. First, despite the absolute numbers, the rate of contemporary immigration relative to the total U.S. population is much lower than that of the earlier period, simply because the U.S. population more than tripled during the course of the twentieth century (Smith and Edmonston, 1997). The average rate from 1986 to 1995 was 3.9 immigrants per 1,000 U.S. residents, as opposed to 11.1 from 1905 to 1914 (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1997:17). The comparatively low rate of contemporary immigration implies a more modest overall impact on the U.S. population today than in the past, though such an impact is disproportionately localized in areas of high immigration. Second, the rate of contemporary emigration is also considerably lower today than in the past. It was estimated that for every 100 immigrants who arrived from 1901 through the early twenties, 36 returned to their homelands. Between 1971 and 1990, in contrast, less than 25 returned. This trend suggests a more steady rate of growth today than in the past, and indicates that contemporary immigrants are more likely than their earlier counterparts to stay in the United States permanently (Warren and Kraly, 1985; U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1997).

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I Third, unlike immigration then, today’s immigration is accompanied by a much larger number of undocumented immigrants. Before the Nationality Act of 1924 established the national-origins quota system, immigration to the United States was relatively open, with legal restrictions only on immigrants from Asia—a small fraction of total U.S. immigration. Thus, the number of undocumented immigrants before 1924 was not at issue. Today, various immigration laws are in place to regulate front-door entrants; but historical patterns of labor’s reliance on Mexican migration, especially in agriculture, as well as migration networks, have facilitated undocumented immigration through back-door channels (Massey, 1995). Net trends in undocumented immigration have fluctuated since the 1980s. On the one hand, IRCA “dried up” a large portion of the undocumented population because former illegals were no longer illegal. Moreover, the employer-sanctions provisions of IRCA exercised an initial deterrent effect on illegal flows of laborers across the Mexican border. Fairly quickly, however, conditions returned to the status quo ante, as undocumented workers and their employers learned to circumvent new restrictions; and the inertial effect of long-established migrant networks facilitated the inflows. Consequently, the number of undocumented immigrants grew to 5 million as of October 1996, up from an estimated 3.9 million in October 1992, indicating an average annual growth of 275,000 during the 1994 to 1996 period. About 60 percent of undocumented immigrants enter across land borders. Undocumented immigrants from Mexico alone account for 54 percent of the total, eight times the number from El Salvador, the second largest source. California’s share is 40 percent of all undocumented immigrants (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1997:185). Because of the high visibility of so many immigrants of Mexican origin, and because of the geographic concentration, undocumented immigration has become a highly publicized and contested policy issue in California. Fourth, compared to immigration then, today’s inflows are made up of a higher proportion of refugees and those seeking asylum.2 From 1946 to 1995—i.e., in the 50 years after World War II ended—more than 3 million refugees and people seeking asylum were granted lawful permanent-resident status through various legislation. Unlike post-WWII refugees, more than 90 percent of whom were from war-torn countries in 2   Refugees and people seeking asylum can be anyone with a well-founded fear of prosecution on the basis of race, religion, membership in a social group, political opinion, or national origin. Refugees are those seeking protection from outside the United States; those seeking asylum are seeking protection once already in the United States.

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I Europe, contemporary refugees reflect more numerous and diverse national origins, with most coming from the Caribbean, Central America, Southeast Asia, and the former Soviet Union. From 1961 to 1995, the number of refugees admitted annually averaged 68,150, compared to 47,000 over the 15-year span immediately after the War (1946 to 1961). The admission of refugees today implies a much larger base for later immigration through family reunification. Last but not least, the all-time high presence of nonimmigrants arriving in the United States temporarily each year also bears a broad implication for potential immigration, both legal and illegal. According the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), of 22.6 million nonimmigrant visas issued in 1995, 17.6 million (78 percent) were for tourists who came for short visits, business or pleasure; the rest were for long-term nonimmigrants, including 395,000 foreign students along with their spouses and children, 243,000 temporary workers or trainees along with their immediate relatives, and a smaller number of traders and investors. These groups contain a significant pool of potential immigrants. The majority of those who initially entered as students can freely seek employment in the United States after the completion of their studies, which in turn increases the probability of later moving to permanent-resident status. Among those who entered as tourists, the great majority will depart on time; however, a relatively small proportion, but a quantitatively large number, of those who might qualify for family-sponsored immigration, may over-stay their visas and wait here to have their status adjusted. In 1995, almost one-half of the legal immigrants admitted were originally nonimmigrants who had their visas adjusted here in the United States. About 40 percent of the total undocumented immigrant population were “nonimmigrant overstays” (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1997). In sum, lower rates of emigration, higher numbers of undocumented immigrants and refugees or people seeking asylum, and the larger pool of potentially permanent immigrants among nonimmigrants suggests the complexity of contemporary immigration. Another significant implication for immigration to America is that it is a more challenging task than ever to accurately measure the scale and impact of immigration and to manage or control the inflows. HETEROGENEITY OF CONTEMPORARY IMMIGRANTS Compared with the turn-of-the-century immigrants, contemporary immigrants are markedly heterogeneous in national origins, types of admission, spatial distribution, and socioeconomic characteristics. The newcomers come predominantly from non-European countries. Since the

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I 1980s, 88 percent of the immigrants admitted to the United States come from the Americas (excluding Canada) and Asia, and only 10 percent from Europe, compared to more than 90 percent at the earlier peak. In particular, the percentage of immigrants from the Americas, as a proportion of total legal immigrant admissions, has risen substantially from its 1950 base of 25 percent, moving to 39 percent in the 1960s, and jumping up to 50 percent since the 1980s. Similarly, the percentage of immigrants from Asia, as a proportion of the total admissions, grew from a tiny 5 percent in the 1950s, to 11 percent in the 1960s, to 33 percent in the 1970s, and has stayed at 35 percent since 1980, except for 1991 when the Asian share dropped to 18 percent because of the sudden increase in the legalizees under IRCA, most of whom were Mexicans or Central Americans (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1997).3 The top five sending countries from 1981 through 1995 were Mexico, the Philippines, China/Taiwan, the Dominican Republic, and India, compared to Italy, Austria/Hungary, the Soviet Union, Canada, and the United Kingdom during the first two decades of the century. Mexico alone accounted for more than one-fifth of the total legal admissions since the 1980s. In fact, Mexico was on the INS list of the top five countries of last residence from 1921 through 1960, and was number one after 1960 (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1997:14). The size and composition of immigration has a lasting effect on the size and composition of the general U.S. population. During the past 30 years, immigration accounted for more than one-third of total U.S. population growth. Asian- and Hispanic-origin populations grew particularly fast, in both absolute and relative sizes. Some groups—Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Dominicans, Haitians, Jamaicans, Asian Indians, Koreans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians—grew at spectacular rates, mainly as a result of immigration. It is estimated that, at the current rates of net immigration, intermarriage, and ethnic affiliation, the size of the Asian population will increase from 9 to 34 million by 2050 (growing from 3 to 8 percent of the population) and the Hispanic population will rise from 27 million in 1995 (about 9 percent of the population) to 95 million (or 25 percent of the population) in 2050 (Smith and Edmonston, 1997). Spatially, the turn-of-the-century immigrants were highly concentrated along the Northeastern seaboard and in the Midwest. For them, the top five most preferred state destinations were New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey; and the most preferred immigrant urban destinations were New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Boston (Waldinger and Bozorgmehr, 1996). In contrast, today’s 3   Not including immigrants from Iran, Israel, and Turkey.

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I newcomers are highly concentrated not simply in states or urban areas traditionally attracting most immigrants but also in states or urban areas in the West, Southwest, and Southeast. Since 1971, the top five states of immigrant intended residence have been California, New York, Florida, Texas, and New Jersey, accounting for almost two out of every three newly admitted immigrants. California has been the leading state of immigrant destination since 1976. In 1995, the five leading urban areas of high immigrant concentration were New York, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Chicago, Miami-Hialeah, and Orange County, California (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1997). The new immigrants also differ from the turn-of-the-century inflows in their diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. The image of the poor, uneducated, and unskilled “huddled masses,” used to depict the turn-of-the-century European immigrants, does not apply to today’s newcomers. The 1990 Census attests to the vast differences in demographic characteristics, levels of education, occupation, and income by national origins (Table 7–1). The sex ratio was nearly balanced, with a slightly higher proportion of females coming from the former Soviet Union, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Philippines, and Korea. Most of the immigrants were of prime age, between 27 and 35, except for the Chinese, who were slightly older, and the Russians, who were comparably much older. For all other groups listed in Table 7–1, except the Russians, the majority of the immigrants arrived after 1980. These new immigrants also varied drastically in socioeconomic status. For example, more than 60 percent of foreign-born persons (age 25 years or older) from India reported having attained college degrees, three times the percentage for average Americans; but less than 5 percent of those from El Salvador and Mexico so reported. Among employed foreign-born workers (age 16 years or older), more than 45 percent of the Indians held managerial or professional occupations, more than twice the percentage of average American workers; but less than 7 percent of the Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Mexicans held comparable jobs. Moreover, for immigrants from India a median household annual income of $48,000 was reported, compared to a $30,000 average for American households; those from the Dominican Republic and the Soviet Union reported median annual household incomes of less than $20,000. Percentages varied for those reporting poverty-level annual incomes (less than $16,500 per year), ranging from a low of 5 percent of Asian Indians and Filipinos to a high of 33 percent of Dominicans, compared to about 10 percent of American families.

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I SOURCES AND PERPETUATION OF CONTEMPORARY IMMIGRATION Immigration Legislation Contemporary immigration is often referred to as “post-1965” immigration. The use of the term is not arbitrary, because immigration from the Americas and Asia surged after the passage of the 1965 amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act (the Hart-Cellar Act). However, it is debatable whether the Hart-Cellar Act was the principal cause of the major shift in today’s immigration. The Hart-Cellar Act, which took effect in 1968, had a humanitarian goal of reunifying families and an economic goal of bringing in needed labor. It abolished the national-quotas system that restricted immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, lifted the ban on immigration from Asia, and established the seven preference categories. The act set an annual numerical cap of 290,000 (spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens were exempt from numerical limitations), allocating 170,000 to the Eastern Hemisphere, with a 20,000-per-country limit, and 120,000 to the Western Hemisphere, with no per-country limit. The abolition of national quotas was intended to spur immigration from countries in Eastern and Southern Europe and, to a lesser extent, from Asian countries. In fact, the 1965 Act and its subsequent amendments set the first-ever cap on immigration from the Western Hemisphere, restricting immigration from the Americas, especially Mexico, which had been under way since the 1920s (Massey, 1995). Figure 7–2 shows that immigration from the Americas (not including Canada), as a percentage of total inflow, was notably large (16 percent) in the 1920s; decreased to 10 percent in the 1930s, mainly because of the Great Depression; then grew substantially in the 1940s (18 percent) and 1950s (25 percent). Immigration from Asia, by contrast, was relatively insignificant prior to 1970 (less than 6 percent) but surged rapidly after the enactment of the Hart-Cellar legislation. In the decades after passage, there has been a continuous surge in immigration, and the new arrivals have been disproportionately from the Americas and Asia—a development facilitated, but not caused, by the 1965 shift in immigration policies. Rather the national-origins composition reflects broader changes in the United States and around the world. Globalization The globalization of the U.S. economy since the 1960s has forged extensive economic, cultural, and ideological ties among the United States

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I TABLE 7–1 Socioeconomic Characteristics of Immigrants from Selected Countries, 1990   Soviet Union Mexico El Salvador Guatemala Dominican Republic Female, % 54.8 44.9 48.4 48.7 54.6 Median age, yrs. 50 29.3 27.9 28.7 32.5 Immigrated after 1980, % 39.4 50.0 75.3 68.2 53.2 Poor English,a % 51.9 70.7 72.4 70.7 68.7 College degrees,b % 26.5 3.5 4.7 5.8 7.4 Professional Occupations,c % 30.9 5.8 5.8 7.0 10.9 Household income, $ 19,125 21,926 23,533 24,362 19,996 Poverty % 18.5 27.4 22.5 21.5 33.4 Total (1,000s) 334 4,298 465 226 348 aAge 5 and older. bAge 25 and older. cAge 16 and older SOURCE: U.S. Census of Population (1990). and many developing countries in Latin America and Asia. Direct U.S.-capital investments in developing countries have transformed those countries’ economic and occupational structures. Foreign investment disproportionately targets production for export, taking advantage of raw material and cheap labor in developing countries. Such development results in tremendous internal rural-urban migration, predominantly of low-skilled and female laborers coming from the rural economy to urban industrial centers, which in turn causes underemployment and displacement of the urban work force. Robust but unstable employment in the growing export manufacturing sector, combined with unemployment and underemployment in national economies, has created an enormous pool of potential emigrants (Sassen, 1989). On the other hand, economic development following the American model has stimulated consumerism and consumption and raised expecta-

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I Haiti Jamaica China Philippines India Korea Vietnam Total 50.2 55.1 49.6 56.6 45.1 57.0 47.5 51.1 34.8 34.5 44.6 38.4 36.9 33.8 29.2 35.3 58.7 46.2 54.5 49.1 55.8 56.2 62.9 43.8 55.2 1.7 72.2 32.0 27.2 61.9 66.2 46.9 11.8 15.0 30.9 45.6 63.0 34.4 15.9 20.5 13.8 21.2 29.0 28.3 48.1 25.5 16.9 22.2 25,454 30,599 30,597 45,419 48,320 30,147 30,039 28,314 20.9 10.4 12.5 4.6 5.1 15.1 23.8 14.9 225 334 530 913 450 568 543 19,767 tions regarding the standard of living. The widening gap between consumption expectations and the available standards of living within the structural constraints of the developing economies, combined with easy access to information and migration networks, has in turn created tremendous pressure for emigration (Portes, 1979; Portes and Rumbaut, 1996). Thus, U.S. foreign-capital investments in developing countries have resulted in the paradox of rapid economic growth and high emigration from these countries to the United States. On the U.S. side, unprecedented growth in capital-intensive, high-tech industries and services has created a severe shortage of skilled workers. American businesses and policy makers believe that importing skilled labor is the quickest solution, as opposed to training American workers. Since the 1980s, about one-third of the engineers and medical personnel in the U.S. labor market have come from abroad. The needs of business,

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I FIGURE 7–2 Immigration from the Americas (not including Canada) and Asia, as a proportion of the total immigration to the United States, 1911 to 1990. SOURCE: U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (1997). however, are not sufficient explanation of the trends in high-skill migration; a disproportionate percentage, almost 60 percent, of the total skilled immigration in 1995 originated from selected countries in Asia. It is the global integration of higher education in many of the sending countries and advanced training in the United States, interacting with the opportunity structure in the homelands, that have set in motion the high-skill immigration. The infusion of the educational systems with globalization in many developing countries—notably India, Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan—has given rise to a sizeable professional class. Many members of this emerging middle class are frustrated by uneven economic development and rigid opportunity structures in their homelands that devalue their human capital worth; in addition, many feel powerless to make changes because of repressive political systems. They therefore aggressively seek emigration as the most preferred alternative, and the change in U.S. immigration policy facilitated their move (Liu and Cheng, 1994). The emergence of the United States as the leading place for training international students has also been instrumental in supplying the U.S. economy with needed skilled labor (Ong et al., 1992). Many foreign students found permanent employment in the United States after completing their studies or practical training. For example, in fiscal year 1995, close to 40 percent of the immigrants from mainland China were admitted under employment-based preferences. Almost all of them had received higher education or training in the United States.

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I generation contingents either under 15 or over 55, and relatively small cohorts resting in between. The U-curve not only implies a high level of variation among the second generation, but it also indicates that the relative weight of this population differs greatly across the age cohort. Most importantly, the second-generation presence is of relative importance among the youngest and oldest groups. Among prime-age adults, however, immigrant offspring are still a relatively inconspicuous minority. The U-curve, though always observable, nonetheless assumes a different form in each of the immigration regions. Los Angeles looks especially distinct, with a disproportionately large population of second-generation children, and a disproportionately low population of second-generation elders, making for a very peculiar looking “U.” Miami again resembles Los Angeles, differing only in the relative weight of elderly immigrant offspring, most of whom are undoubtedly migrants from the colder climates of the Northeast and the Midwest. Though the fissure point obviously varies from place to place, splitting the second-generation population into those born before and after 1960 highlights the ethnic contrast between the old and the new second generation. Immigrant offspring born before 1960 are predominately White in all five regions, and almost exclusively so in New York, Los Angeles, and even Miami. By contrast, those born after 1960 are a far more varied lot, with Whites topping out at 40 percent in New York and Chicago, and not quite reaching the 20 percent mark in Los Angeles. The age and ethnic structures of various immigrant regions are linked, and consequentially so. Whereas the shift from old to new second generation can be seen in the youngest cohort in every place, nowhere has the majority of the new second generation yet come of age. But within age cohorts, the shift from old to new is considerably more advanced in some places than in others. In Chicago, only the youngest cohort has seen the White second-generation group change from a quantitative majority to a quantitative minority; in New York the same transition has already transpired among adolescents and the youngest of adults, but not among any other cohorts. By contrast, the ethnic origins of younger, but prime-aged, second-generation adults have already tipped in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami. Second-Generation Progress or Decline? The demographic patterns discussed above suggest that the new second generation is still in the making, but is expected to come of age rapidly in the next decade or so. This new second generation is highly concentrated in regions of first-generation settlement, yet extraordinarily

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I diverse in national origins. The central question of concern is whether this second generation will decline or eventually converge toward the mean. Analyses of CPS data yield several important findings about the second generation in America’s major immigrant receiving centers—New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami (Zhou, 1999). First, there is a consistent trend of significant second-generation progress beyond that of the first generation, across regions and ethnic groups. Members of the second generation generally fare as well as, and in many cases better than, members of the third generation. The second generation also tends to do better in immigrant centers than elsewhere in the United States. Once important demographic and socioeconomic factors are controlled, the second generation’s progress beyond the third generation’s becomes even more pronounced. Second, foreign birth does not exert as severe a penalty as generally expected; compared to the status of the third generation, the second generation’s initial disadvantages become insignificant, once measurable demographic and socioeconomic factors are controlled for. This finding indicates that first-generation disadvantages are strongly associated with ethnicity, spatial concentration of ethnic groups, and major socioeconomic factors, and that controlling for these factors reduces the negative impact of foreign birth. Third, the effects of ethnicity are consistent with prior research, in that they consistently favor Asian-origin groups and penalize other minority groups. And in the third generation, there is a clear convergence of Asian Americans toward the socioeconomic status of non-Hispanic Whites and a persistent gap between Mexican and other Hispanic groups and non-Hispanic Whites, which resembles the Black-White gap. Fourth, immigrant centers that are distinct from other major urban areas are also distinct from each other. These urban centers offer opportunities as well as disadvantages for immigrants and their offspring. The broader inter-regional variations bear on ethnicity. Specifically, Asians fare better in Chicago than their coethnics elsewhere; but Blacks, Mexicans, and other Hispanics suffer most in the same region. Miami is clearly favorable for the adaptation of non-Mexican Hispanics (most of whom are Cuban), but Los Angeles does not seem to provide similar advantages for Mexicans. Although my analyses do not directly test the hypothesis of “second-generation decline,” the findings clearly show that the second generation is advancing in big strides. More troubling are the significant intergroup differences in the rate of progress and the trend toward third-generation decline, both of which reflect the enduring influence of the U.S. system of ethnic stratification.

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I Determinants of Social Mobility for Immigrant Children The intergenerational mobility of immigrants has been empirically measured by the extent to which immigrant groups achieve parity with the society’s dominant group in education, occupation, income and wealth, and political power—as Gordon puts it, “secondary structural assimilation” (Gordon, 1964). The experiences of the children and grandchildren of the European immigrants who arrived in the early twentieth century appear to confirm assimilationist predictions. Between 1920 and 1950, when America experienced a long hiatus of restricted immigration, the earlier waves of immigrants were absorbed. They experienced significant upward mobility across generations, as measured by length of stay, mastery of the English language, acquisition of human capital, and increasing exposure to American cultures (Alba, 1985; Chiswick, 1977; Greeley, 1976; Sandberg, 1974; Wytrwal, 1961). The question is open as to whether new immigrants and their offspring will follow the path of their European predecessors. In terms of the direction of intergenerational mobility, the distinctions between the earlier European immigrants and the contemporary newcomers may not be as sharp as they appear. With regard to the rate of structural assimilation, the classical assimilationist paradigm shows its constraints. The historiography of the turn-of-the-century European immigrants and studies of new immigrants reveal divergent rather than convergent outcomes across national-origin groups (Landale and Oropesa, 1995; Model, 1991; Perlmann, 1988; Tienda and Lii, 1987; Zhou and Kamo, 1994). These studies suggest that the direction and the rate of social mobility are two distinct dimensions of the adaptational outcomes and that what determines the direction may not necessarily determine the rate. Class Socioeconomic status shapes the immediate social conditions for adaptation, because it determines the type of neighborhood in which children live, the quality of the schools they attend, and the group of peers with whom they associate. Immigrant children from middle-class backgrounds benefit from financially secure families, good schools, safe neighborhoods, and supportive formal and informal organizations, which ensure better life chances for them. Children of poorly educated and unskilled parents, by contrast, generally grow up in neighborhoods subject to poverty, poor schools, violence, drugs, and a generally disruptive social environment. Clearly, outcomes of adaptation vary according to whether immigrants settle in affluent middle-class suburbs or in impoverished inner-

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I city ghettos. Although the emergence of a middle-class population is a distinctive aspect of contemporary immigration, a disproportionately large number of immigrant children converge in underprivileged and linguistically distinctive neighborhoods. There, the immigrants and their children come into direct daily contact with the poor rather than with the middle class; they are also apt to encounter members of native minorities and other immigrants rather than members of the dominant majority. At school, many immigrant children find themselves in classrooms with other immigrant children speaking a language other than English, or with native minority children who either have problems keeping up with schoolwork or consciously resist academic achievement. These adversarial circumstances have been found to be detrimental to second-generation adaptation (Ogbu, 1974; Perlmann and Waldinger, 1997; Portes, 1995; Portes and Zhou, 1993). Race/Ethnicity The effect of race/ethnicity is intertwined with class. As immigrant children are absorbed into different segments of American society, becoming American may not always be an advantage. When immigrants enter middle-class communities directly, or after a short transition, they may find it advantageous to acculturate and assimilate. If the social environment surrounding immigrant children is rich in resources, and if its goals are consistent with those of the immigrant family, then ethnic resources may be relatively less important, but they may still count. For example, many middle-class immigrant parents move into affluent White neighborhoods, send their children to schools attended primarily by White students from similarly or more affluent socioeconomic backgrounds, and still insist on enrolling their children in weekend or after-school ethnic schools, or involving them in ethnic, religious, or cultural activities. The children then benefit both from privileged socioeconomic contacts with the dominant group in mainstream America and from the group-specific expectations of and opportunities for intellectual development. Different outcomes are possible where the social environment is not so rich. Many immigrant children have moved to central cities with few socioeconomic resources and live in inner-city ghettos among the most disadvantaged segments of the native minority and immigrant populations. The problem of poverty concentration has been exacerbated by the disappearance of industrial jobs in these urban areas, reducing the demand for low- and semi-skilled labor and trapping the working poor in underemployment and unemployment (Wilson, 1987). The flight of the middle class has worsened the situation, removing opportunities for im-

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I migrants to integrate into mainstream society and causing severe social isolation—similar to that commonly faced by U.S.-born minorities in the most impoverished stratum of society. Contextual Factors Changes in social and economic conditions in the host society create structural constraints for second-generation mobility. Economic restructuring has eliminated most of the well-paying, blue-collar jobs in manufacturing that enabled less-skilled European immigrants to climb the social ladder. With the hourglass economy taking shape, as Gans (1992:173–174) predicts, [S]ome members of the second generation, especially those whose parents did not themselves escape poverty, could in adulthood finish in persistent poverty because they will either not be asked, or be reluctant to work at immigrant wages and hours as their parents did but will lack the job opportunities, skills, and connections to do better. Moreover, American popular culture, with its emphasis on materialism, consumption, and individualism, and its anti-intellectual streak, powerfully influences all children. The effects of exposure to popular culture, however, vary also by class and race. Many inner-city children who feel oppressed and excluded from the American mainstream are also frustrated by the hypocrisy of a culture that highly values freedom and materialism and offers only a dwindling economic future. Many respond to their social isolation and their constrained opportunities with resentment toward middle-class America, rebelling against all forms of authority and rejecting the goals of achievement and upward mobility. Because students in schools shape one another’s attitudes and expectations, such an oppositional culture negatively affects educational outcomes. School achievement seems unlikely to lead to upward mobility, and high achievers are seen as sell-outs to oppressive authority. Although there is a strong anti-intellectual streak in American youth culture at all socioeconomic levels, the rejection of academic pursuits is especially intense among members of minority groups, who are more likely than members of the majority to identify school administrations with oppressive authority, to perceive their entry into the middle class as almost impossible, and to be in schools where learning is strongly discouraged by peers. Lowered chances for mobility create frustration and pessimism for all American youth, but these emotions are most strongly felt by those at the bottom of the economic hierarchy. When those at the bottom are also members of historically oppressed minority groups, frustration is mixed with the need to maintain self-esteem, so that rejection of

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I middle-class mores and opposition to authority become important strategies for psychological survival. In underprivileged neighborhoods, in particular, immigrant children meet U.S.-born peers with little hope for the future and are thus likely to be pressured by their peers to resist assimilation into the middle class, as expected by their parents. These trends pose a challenge to all parents, but the challenge is especially daunting for immigrant parents with limited educational backgrounds, frequently limited English skills, and few resources (Zhou, 1997b). Thus, when immigrant children enter American society at the bottom of the ethnic hierarchy, acculturation and assimilation are likely to be tinged with distinct disadvantages, viewed as maladjustment by both mainstream society and the ethnic community. Immigrant children from less fortunate socioeconomic backgrounds have a much harder time succeeding in school than do middle-class children, and a significant number of the children of poor, especially dark-skinned, immigrants can be trapped in permanent poverty in an era of stagnant economic growth, and in the process of rapid Americanization. The prospects facing children of the less fortunate may be high rates of unemployment, crime, alcoholism, drug use, and other pathologies associated with poverty and the frustration of diminishing expectations. In this case, young immigrants or children of immigrants may benefit from cultivating social ties within ethnic communities to develop forms of behavior likely to break the cycle of disadvantage. The extent to which young people are integrated into this immigrant community also becomes a major determinant of school adaptation, especially when the social environment otherwise places children at risk (Zhou and Bankston, 1998). CONCLUSION The significant differences between contemporary immigration and turn-of-the-century European immigration necessitate a reconceptualization of the phenomenon and the development of alternative theories of immigration and immigrant adaptation. Contemporary immigration in the United States has resulted from the interplay of macro- and microstructural factors operating cross-nationally, rather than unilaterally. The new immigration has transformed America’s major immigrant-receiving centers through a dialectical process, creating opportunities and constraints for immigrant incorporation as well as for a realignment of racial and ethnic relations. For new immigrants and their children, the path to integration into American society may be rugged and segmented because of the diverse socioeconomic backgrounds of new immigrants. Many new immigrants continue to follow the traditional route, starting from the bottom rungs of the socioeconomic ladder and gradually working their

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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I way up. A visible proportion of the immigrants, however, have managed to bypass that bottom step, incorporating directly into mainstream professional occupations and dispersing into suburban middle-class communities. Still, a significant number may be permanently “trapped” at the bottom, either unable to find work or working at “dead-end” jobs with little hope for social mobility. Increasing diversity has posed challenges for all Americans—U.S. born and immigrant—as they are pressured to negotiate the culture of diversity and redefine themselves in the new racial/ethnic stratification system. The old framework of assimilation has become outmoded. In multiethnic urban centers today, all U.S.-born racial/ethnic groups are facing the challenge of adjustment to the new reality. There are growing tensions arising from an urgent need to negotiate the culture of diversity and redefine oneself in the new racial/ethnic stratification system. Furthermore, the future of the new second generation is intrinsically linked to the diversity of immigration and to the current system of social stratification into which today’s immigrant children are assimilating. The American public still seems to assume that all immigrant children should move up and melt into the middle class. As there are poor Whites who have never attained middle class, it should not be a surprise that some immigrant children may not make it either. Certainly, we cannot expect all immigrant children to excel equally in a society as unequal as ours. As Gans (1992) argues, it is time to question the American faith in the inevitability of immigrant success. Children of middle-class immigrants have a better chance for success; their poorer counterparts, especially the darker-skinned ones, may not fare equally well. Consequently, assimilation as a widespread outcome for contemporary immigrant groups is possible for some but questionable for others. It is too early to reach a definite conclusion about assimilation, with scenarios of second-generation decline still a matter of speculation; it seems clear, however, that assimilation no longer means that everybody eventually succeeds. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The original version of this article was presented at the Research Conference on Racial Trends in the United States, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., October 15–16, 1998. The author wishes to thank Roger Waldinger and Mary Waters for their helpful comments and Vincent Fu and Diana Lee for their research assistance.

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