New generation of Hispanics is on a promising path

2013-02-12T00:00:00Z New generation of Hispanics is on a promising pathThe Washington Post The Washington Post Arizona Daily Star
February 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The following editorial appeared Sunday in the Washington Post:

A little more than one-third of the adult children of immigrants in this country are Hispanics, and it turns out that like previous generations of immigrants, they are generally doing well. That's good news and further evidence that the descendants of millions of undocumented immigrants, currently in the cross hairs of the national debate over immigration reform, will assimilate and become productive citizens.

A new study by the Pew Research Center, examining census data for millions of second-generation immigrants, throws cold water on suggestions that Hispanics are somehow different from past immigrant communities - a permanent underclass in the making, wedded to government handouts.

To the contrary: A staggering 78 percent of second-generation Hispanic adults say that they believe hard work pays off in success. That's a higher percentage than the 72 percent of their Asian-American counterparts who profess such faith in hard work or, indeed, the 58 percent of all American adults.

To be sure, second-generation Hispanic immigrants have a way to go to catch up to their non-Hispanic white and Asian-American counterparts. Both those groups have higher median household incomes and lower poverty rates than adult Americans as a whole.

But the gap is not as large as some might assume. The median household income for second-generation Hispanic immigrants ($48,400), is only slightly lower than the overall national figure (about $50,000). And the poverty rate for that group of Hispanics (16 percent) is virtually the same as the nation's (15 percent).

One area where second-generation Hispanics badly lag comparable immigrant groups is in educational attainment. Just one-fifth of them have completed college, compared with two-fifths of white second-generation immigrants and more than half of Asian-Americans. But the percentage of second-generation Hispanics with college degrees is double that of foreign-born Hispanic immigrants - a sharply favorable trend that suggests steadily rising future prosperity.

That progress is mirrored in other areas of the Pew report, which shows that compared with first-generation Hispanics, second-generation Hispanics are much more likely to speak English; have friends and spouses from outside their own ethnic group; and consider themselves as "typical Americans." That, along with improving economic circumstances, suggests a promising path toward assimilation for the country's largest and fastest-growing minority.

None of that should be particularly surprising - except perhaps to ardent fans of conservative talk radio and other media that like to portray Hispanic immigrants as imminent perils to American's demographic integrity and public health.

About 44 million immigrants have arrived in America since the mid-1960s, and about half of them are Hispanic. The Pew study is further proof that their children - children like Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who is nudging his party toward immigration reform - will make a critical contribution to the nation's future.

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