Working Paper No. 333 | June 2001

Toward a Population History of the Second Generation

Birth Cohorts of Southern-, Central- and Eastern-European Origins, 1871–1970

Past-present comparisons of second-generation progress are often plagued by vague references to the baseline, the past. This essay seeks to contribute some specificity to the understanding of second generations past for the sake of comparison and as a contribution to historical understanding in its own right. First, it defines the older second-generation groups that make for theoretically meaningful comparisons. It next determines when these relevant second-generation members grew up and the magnitude of each ethnic birth cohort. Finally, the essay calls attention to important shifts in the social composition of second-generation cohorts that have not been studied systematically before (when indeed noticed at all). Specifically, over time, the proportion of immigrant parents who arrived as children, arrived after the mass migration, or married a native-born American varies immensely. Such compositional shifts should interest those who study contemporary as well as past immigration, since these shifts will appear in some fashion in any immigration. The study also analyses Stanley Lieberson's work with ethnic cohorts in A Piece of the Pie, and confirms his fundamental conclusion.

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