How the Past Obscures Contemporary Assessments of Incorporation: Demographic Models of Mexican-American Third Generation Decline in Educational Attainment

James D. Bachmeier, Temple University
Jennifer Van Hook, Pennsylvania State University

Research on the intergenerational educational mobility of Mexican-Americans has consistently found that gains in educational attainment stall or even erode in third and later generations. However, little research has assessed the degree to which "third generation decline" reflects the underlying dynamics of contemporary incorporation processes, on the one hand, or derives instead from historical artifacts with little bearing on the prospects for economic mobility among the children of today's Mexican immigrants. We address this question by projecting forward the Mexican-American population observed in the 1940 Census. Results from a series of simulation exercises suggest that third-generation decline is driven largely by (a) Mexican-Americans' disproportionate origins in Pre-WWII Texas where intergenerational mobility was extremely limited, and (b) selective ethnic attrition from the adoption of a Mexican-American ethnic identity. Thus, third generation decline derives largely from historical processes, and is therefore unlikely to serve as a reliable barometer for contemporary incorporation dynamics.

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Presented in Session 157: Demography and Ethno-Racial Inequality II