Why has Mexican-American assimilation stagnated?

Image Credit: Generations of Exclusion: Mexican Americans, Assimilation, and Race

Image Credit: Generations of Exclusion: Mexican Americans, Assimilation, and Race

Mexico is the single largest source of immigrants, 31%, to the United States. How is thoroughly is this group assimilating? By some measures pretty well. In their 2009 book Generations of Exclusion: Mexican Americans, Assimilation, and Race, researchers Edward Telles and Vilma Ortiz examined the assimilation of a 800 Mexican-American immigrants and 700 of their children in Los Angeles and San Antonio from 1965 to the present. Telles and Ortiz find much progress was made from the first to second generation. For instance, all Mexican Americans were English-proficient by the second generation, and educational levels of second-generation Mexican Americans improved dramatically.

But then the assimilation process stalls out. Unlike the descendants of European immigrants to the US, the researchers conclude to their own admitted surprise, Mexican Americans have not fully integrated by the third and fourth generation — particularly in terms of education, earnings, ethnic identity, and residential segregation:




So what’s the problem? Telles and Ortiz conclude that education is the biggest obstacle impeding assimilation for Mexican Americans: ”Their limited schooling locks many of them into a future of low socioeconomic status. Low levels of education also predict lower rates of intermarriage, a weaker American identity, and a lower likelihood of registering to vote and voting.”
So, as almost always it seems, America’s problems come back to the America’s failing education system.

3 thoughts on “Why has Mexican-American assimilation stagnated?

  1. This is also one of the most pessimistic studies out there about assimilation. Was their sample representative in terms of marriage rates with non-Mexicans and other factors that boost assimilation? Mexican assimilation measures are usually weighed down by two factors:

    1. Monoethnic immigrant destinations.

    2. Large numbers of temporary workers who have no interest in assimilating. During recessions, assimilation rates improve because the temporary workers leave and the serious ones remain.

    The answer to the 1st is more varied immigration from non-Hispanic source countries and the 2nd issue is not worth worrying about.

  2. Would it be politically incorrect of me to suggest that perhaps we aren’t getting the pinnacle of Mexico’s intellects? The gene pool passed on to succeeding generations might also explain the low education levels and economic status.

    • “Figure 3 compares kernel density plots for residual wages earned by non-emigrants to those earned by subsequent emigrants. These nationally-representative data reveal that the average emigrant comes from the 56th percentile of residual wages, suggesting that
      Ro/Re = 1.03 (with a 95% confidence interval of (0.96, 1.12)), so that Re ≈ 2.46. (The median emigrant comes from the 50th percentile of non-migrants.) This calculation for Mexico is important but should not be seen as representative of selection processes for other countries that are more distant, where language barriers are more important, and where diasporas are smaller, all of which might affect the degree of selection.”

      From Mexico, immigrants are clearly not the uneducated dregs of society but not the rocket scientists either. They’re right in the middle of education distribution.

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