Working Paper No. 335 | August 2001

Young Mexican Americans, Blacks, and Whites in Recent Years

Schooling and Teen Motherhood As Indicators of Strengths and Risks

This paper stresses that the key to concerns about the progress of second-generation Americans is the fate of the Mexican second generation. It compares several indicators of the advances of second-generation Mexicans to those of non-Hispanic, native-born blacks and non-Hispanic, native-born white attainments. The analysis relies on the most recent available evidence from the CPS data of 1994-2000. Patterns of educational attainment are ambiguous, which suggests that the Mexican pattern and resembles that of older immigrant laboring groups of the past, who traded extended schooling for work. Patterns of teen and young-adult unwed motherhood, labor force attachment, and poverty suggest that to date the Mexican and black patterns do not converge. The male-female ratio among the groups underscores the point. The paper also argues that evidence on contemporary third-generation Mexican-Americans is largely irrelevant to expectations about the descendants of the current Mexican immigrants. The paper concludes with an argument that these data do not point clearly to second-generation decline; nevertheless, it also shows that if such decline is expected, there are ways to read these data, that would produce such a result.

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