The Rise of the Second Generation
WHAT: Hispanics now make up more than one-in-five of all children in the United States and as their numbers have grown, their demographic profile has changed.
More than half of the nation’s 16 million Hispanic children are now “second generation,” meaning they are the U.S.-born sons or daughters of at least one foreign-born parent, typically someone who came to this country in the immigration wave from Mexico, Central America and South America that began around 1980. In 1980, far fewer Hispanic children were second generation, while a significant majority were the U.S.-born sons or daughters of U.S.-born parents.
Shifts in the generational status of Hispanic children matter because analysis of the most recent Census data indicates that many social, economic and demographic characteristics of Latino children vary sharply by their generational status. Indicators of the socioeconomic status of Hispanic children of U.S.-born parents are higher than for Hispanic children of immigrant parents, but health-based and other indicators suggest Hispanic children in immigrant families fare better in some dimensions.
Another characteristic that separates Latino children along generational lines is their legal status. Building on earlier research, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that fewer than one-in-ten of all Hispanic children are unauthorized immigrants. However, a greater share of Hispanic children have one or more unauthorized parents.
Pew Hispanic Center population projections indicate that the generational composition of Hispanic children will change yet again between now and 2025. The share of Hispanic children who are second generation is projected to soon peak and the share of Hispanic children who are third generation or higher will begin to rise.
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