Intergenerational Mobility of Immigrants in the U.S. Over Two Centuries

Ran Abramitzky, Leah Platt Boustan, Elisa Jácome, & Santiago Pérez
Date of Publication: 
October, 2019
Source Organization: 

Is the “American Dream” alive and well for immigrant families in the United States? In “Intergenerational Mobility of Immigrants in the U.S. Over Two Centuries", researchers from the University of California-Davis, Stanford and Princeton examined the upward mobility of U.S.-born children relative to immigrants from virtually all possible sending countries.  Upon reviewing census records of several million father-son generational pairs over roughly 100 years, the researchers found that, contrary to prevailing media narratives, immigrant children have higher rates of upward mobility relative to U.S-born children. While immigrants have faced obstacles to upward mobility over the past century, the children of immigrants today perform statistically as well as they have always done, regardless of socioeconomic status upon arrival. This pattern may be due to the fact that immigrants tend to move to areas with growing economies, as well as to the linguistic and educational advantages children of immigrants often have over their parents. The researchers urge policymakers to take a more long-term mindset in judging the assimilation of immigrant populations, as the dream of building prosperity is often realized in the second generation of immigrant families. (Patrick Bloniasz for The ILC Public Education Institute)

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Abramitzky, R., Boustan, L., Jácome, E., & Pérez, S. (2019). Intergenerational mobility of immigrants in the U.S. over two centuries (NBER Working Paper Series No. 26408). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from