When it comes to evaluating immigrant groups, some groups, such as Hispanics, are often derided or seen unfavorably, while other groups, such as Asian immigrants, are held in high-esteem as the “model minority.” But as described in a new article in LA magazine by sociologist Jennifer Lee, we need to rethink the way that we define “success” for America’s immigrant populations.
As Lee and co-author Min Zhou describe in their book The Asian American Achievement Paradox, the advantages that Asian second-generation immigrants often have over other immigrant groups is that many of their parents have college degrees. As other research has established, you are much more likely to graduate from college if your parents have. Lee and Zhou found that the proportion of Chinese second-gen immigrants who went to college is in fact the same proportion for Mexican second-gen immigrants. Lee explains,
“Graduating from college is no easy feat, but it’s far easier when your parents have paved the path before you…Often overlooked is the remarkable progress that the children of Mexican immigrants in L.A. have made. In just one generation they have doubled the high school graduation rates of their parents, doubled the college graduation rates of their fathers, and tripled that of their mothers. Factoring in where they began, the children of Mexican immigrants come out ahead of all immigrant groups.”
Unlike other immigrant groups whose parents are more likely to have college degrees, Mexican second-gen immigrants have experienced the most “success,” overcoming the odds of often being the first person in their family to attend college.