Immigrant Second Generation in Metropolitan New York

The study analyzes the forces leading to or impeding the assimilation of 18- to 32-year-olds from immigrant backgrounds that vary in terms of race, language, and the mix of skills and liabilities their parents brought to the United States. To make sure that what we find derives specifically from growing up in an immigrant family, rather than simply being a young person in New York, a comparison group of people from native born White, Black, and Puerto Rican backgrounds was also studied. The sample was drawn from New York City (except for Staten Island) and the surrounding counties in the inner part of the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region where the vast majority of immigrants and native born minority group members live and grow up. The study groups make possible a number of interesting comparisons. Unlike many other immigrant groups, the West Indian first generation speaks English, but the dominant society racially classifies them as Black. The study explored how their experiences resemble or differ from native born African Americans. Dominicans and the Colombian-Peruvian-Ecuadoran population both speak Spanish, but live in different parts of New York, have different class backgrounds prior to immigration, and, quite often, different skin tones. The study compared them to Puerto Rican young people, who, along with their parents, have the benefit of citizenship. Chinese immigrants from the mainland tend to have little education, while young people with overseas Chinese parents come from families with higher incomes, more education, and more English fluency. Respondents were divided into eight groups depending on their parents' origin. Those of immigrant ancestry include: Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union; Chinese immigrants from the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Chinese Diaspora; immigrants from the Dominican Republic; immigrants from the English-speaking countries of the West Indies (including Guyana but excluding Haiti and those of Indian origin); and immigrants from Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. These groups composed 44 percent of the 2000 second-generation population in the defined sample area. For comparative purposes, Whites, Blacks, and Puerto Ricans who were born in the United States and whose parents were born in the United States or Puerto Rico were also interviewed. To be eligible, a respondent had to have a parent from one of these groups. If the respondent was eligible for two groups, he or she was asked which designation he or she preferred. The ability to compare these groups with native born Whites, Blacks, and Puerto Ricans permits researchers to investigate the effects of nativity while controlling for race and language background. About two-thirds of second-generation respondents were born in the United States, mostly in New York City, while one-third were born abroad but arrived in the United States by age 12 and had lived in the country for at least 10 years, except for those from the former Soviet Union, some of whom arrived past the age of 12. The project began with a pilot study in July 1996.

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