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Second-Generation Latinos in Nebraska: A First Look
Press Release
Thursday, January 4, 2007

Second-Generation Latinos in Nebraska: A First Look

Recent raids at Midwestern meatpacking plants have again focused national attention on immigrants and their families in America’s heartland.  A new article from the Migration Information Source examines how children of immigrants are faring in Nebraska, which between 1990 and 2000, had the fastest growth of the foreign-born population of any Midwestern state and the second highest increase in children of immigrants in Pre-Kindergarten to fifth grade.

Noted scholars Lourdes Gouveia and Mary Ann Powell, from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, find that as of December 2006, Latino children made up 22.6 percent of students in the Omaha Public School District, the state’s largest, and that they are projected to be a majority in as little as five years. The authors provide a previously unavailable look at first-, second- and third generation immigrants throughout the state based on Current Population Survey data and their own Educational Attainment in Nebraska survey, noting that due to limited sample sizes, the data are more descriptive than conclusive.  

Gouveia and Powell find that:

  • According to CPS data, school enrollment for 16- to 24-year-olds jumps from 22.3 percent of first-generation Mexicans (59.7 percent full time) to 54.5 percent of second-generation Mexicans (90.3 percent full time).
  • Educational attainment increases across generations, too.  CPS data show that nearly three out of four first-generation Mexican adults ages 25 to 65 (73.8 percent) have less than a high school diploma, but this number drops to one out of four in the second generation (25.6 percent). While only 2.6 percent of first-generation Mexican adults have a college degree, almost one-fourth of second-generation Mexican adults (22.8 percent) do. 
  • Only sixteen percent of first-generation Latino students who completed the authors’ EAN survey reported that many or most of their friends had plans to attend a four-year college, but 23 percent of second-generation and over half of third-generation Latino students reported friends having college plans.

Despite this progress, hurdles remain. The majority of children of immigrants in Nebraskalive in urban neighborhoods where poverty is at least twice as high as the city’s overall poverty rate, and the authors caution that research has shown a correlation between family fragmentation, due in part to immigrant parents’ long working hours in low-wage jobs, and downward assimilation. 

The authors found that of the second-generation Latino high school students who provided information on their parents’ work status for the EAN survey, 100 percent of fathers and 69 percent of mothers work. However, the majority (55.2 percent) of first-generation high school students and over a third of second-generation high school students (38.4 percent) had to work to help their parents, while only 18.2 percent of third-generation students did.  Additionally, about 70 percent of Latino children surveyed said they would need a scholarship to attend college.

Additional findings, as well as data charts, are available 
from the Migration Information Source article.