CHILDREN OF FOREIGN-BORN PARENTS More Likely to Be College-educated Than Their Parents, Census Bureau Reports

WASHINGTON -- Native-born children of a foreign-born parent, also known as the second-generation, were more likely to be college-educated and have higher incomes than their parents’ generation, according to a first-ever report from the U.S. Census Bureau. Additionally, this second-generation group surpasses education and income levels of the generations that follow them. 

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Characteristics of the U.S. Population by Generational Status: 2013 examines differences among the foreign-born or “first-generation,” the second-generation (native-born with at least one foreign-born parent) and the third-and-higher generation (native-born with two native-born parents) using data from the Current Population Survey. Three quarters of the U.S. population were third-and-higher generation, and the remaining quarter of the U.S. population was made up of approximately equal parts first- and second-generation.

“The expectation that one’s economic status will improve over one’s parents and grandparents is particularly salient in immigrant communities in which the first-generation often must work harder to overcome numerous cultural and economic challenges,” lead report author Edward Trevelyan said. “This report looks for evidence of such inter­generational mobility.”

“The expectation that one’s economic status will improve over one’s parents and grandparents is particularly salient in immigrant communities in which the first-generation often must work harder to overcome numerous cultural and economic challenges.”
— Edward Trevelyan, lead report author

Of the second-generation, 37.4 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 14.9 percent had a master’s degree, or higher. In comparison, 31.4 percent of all subsequent generations had at least a bachelor’s degree, and 11.1 percent had a master’s degree or higher. For the first-generation, 30.1 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 12.1 percent had a master’s degree or higher. Among all generation groups, full-time employment was highest for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The second-generation also had a higher median household income than the first-generation at $51,291 compared to $45,475, respectively. For subsequent generations, median household income was $51,853, which is not statistically different from the second-generation’s income. Median incomes for second-generation individuals in all age groups were equal to or higher than median incomes for other generations.

In addition, the third-and-higher generation’s poverty rate of 13.6 percent was lower than the poverty rates of the first- and second-generations, both about 19.0 percent. 

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

Age 

•    The median age of the second-generation (21 years) was considerably lower than that of the first- and third-and-higher generations (43 years and 39 years, respectively). 

•    Median age has risen gradually over time for the first- and third-and-higher generations while remaining consistently low for the second-generation.  

•    Nearly half of the second-generation were under age 18 while over 80.0 percent of the first generation were ages 18 to 64. 

Education 

•    The first-generation had the lowest high school graduation rate at 72.1 percent. 

•    The first-generation had the highest proportion of people who completed less than ninth grade at 17.3 percent, compared to 3.0 percent in the second-generation and 2.2 percent of the third-and-higher generation. 

•    The first-generation was less likely to attain some college or earn an associate’s degree (16.5 percent) than the second and third-and-higher generations (26.7 percent and 28.9 percent, respectively). 

Labor Force/Income

•    Labor force participation among the first-generation (66.2 percent) was higher than the third-and-higher generation (63.0 percent) and the second-generation (58.6 percent). 

•    First-generation workers ages 16 to 24, as well as age 65 and older, were more likely to work full-time than second- and third-and-higher-generation workers in the same age group.  

•    The income gap between the sexes was smallest among the first-genera­tion, in which the median income of men ($39,082) was about 15.6 percent higher than women ($33,814) and largest among the third-and-higher generation in which the median income of men ($52,072) was 28.0 percent higher than that of women ($40,531). 

Poverty

•    Among all family types, families with first-generation householders had higher poverty rates than families with second- or third-and-higher-generation householders. 

•    First-generation married couples had more than twice the poverty rate (13.9 percent) of second-generation married couples (5.8 percent), and nearly three times the rate of third-and-higher-generation married couples (4.7 percent). 

Occupation and Homeownership

•    First-generation workers were more likely than second- and third-and-higher-generation workers to be employed in service occupations. 

•    First-generation householders were less likely to live in homes that they owned, regardless of family type. 

•    Married-couple family householders were most likely to live in homes that they owned regardless of generational status. •