the american dream

Once here illegally, Mexican family savors children’s success
— reported by The Wall Street Journal

[snip] A growing body of research suggests that the children of these immigrants have made big strides in education, the ticket to upward mobility, and have often moved beyond the poverty of their parents. “The success of immigrants’ children is key to measuring the long-term costs and benefits of immigration,” says David Card, an economist at UC Berkeley. He published a paper in January that concludes children of even the least-educated immigrant groups close most of the education gap with natives.

That conclusion offers a contrast to some other powerful forces shaping mobility in America today. Overall, amid a widening rich-poor gap, the level of mobility in the U.S. has been stuck over the past three decades, and some studies suggest mobility in continental Europe is higher. The decline of on-the-job training and industrial jobs where a high-school graduate could climb the ladder are among the reasons that some Americans have trouble advancing, even as the spread of college education has helped others.


Thus, a Mexican male immigrant who was 45 years old in 1945 was likely to have 4.3 years of schooling. His adult son would get, on average, twice as many years of schooling, or 8.6 years. His grandson would have completed 12.5 years, according to Mr. Smith. That’s an educational gain of eight years in three generations, compared with a five-year gain for European males during the first half of the 20th century.


As immigrants and their offspring live in the U.S. longer, they also tend to improve their lot financially. In California, 28 percent of Latinos who arrived in the 1970s had incomes below the poverty level in 1980. By 2000, the rate for the same group had fallen to 17 percent, according to research by demographers Dowell Myers and John Pitkin for the University of Southern California. Home ownership for the group rose to 55 percent from 15 percent over that 20-year period. (By comparison, the national home ownership rate today is 69 percent.)

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