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Third Generation Disadvantage among Mexican Americans


Among Mexican Americans, generational differences in education do not fit with assimilation theory’s predictions of significant improvement from the second to third generation; instead, education for third generation remains similar to the second generation and falls behind that of non-Hispanic whites. Scholars have not examined this educational gap for recent cohorts, nor have they considered a wide range of economic outcomes by generation. Using a nationally representative sample of young adults from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey, we examine various educational and economic outcomes among second- and third-generation Mexican Americans and compare it to whites and blacks. We find that third-generation Mexican Americans have similar outcomes to the second generation and lower education and economic levels than whites and blacks, even when controlling for key factors. Our findings reveal limitations to assimilation theory and suggest that the persistent low status of third-generation Mexican Americans may be largely due to their racialization. These findings coupled with prior research on Mexican Americans point to a consistent pattern of third generation disadvantage, which stands in contrast to second generation advantage.

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