E.g., 10/03/2023
E.g., 10/03/2023
Up for Grabs: The Gains and Prospects of First- and Second-Generation Young Adults

Youth and young adults from immigrant families today represent one in four people in the United States between the ages of 16 and 26. This population is diverse in its legal status, English language ability, age at arrival in the United States, poverty status, and family composition. In some instances this diversity creates clear strengths for immigrants (e.g., bilingualism, having parental/family support), while in others, it creates risks to educational and economic incorporation (e.g., early parenting, unauthorized status, poverty). Despite these risks, young adult Hispanics who are immigrants or the U.S.-born children of immigrants are making consistent generational gains in education and employment, with college enrollment rates particularly strong for second-generation Hispanic women.

While there are striking patterns of generational progress along many fronts, however, postsecondary education completion rates, especially among the large Hispanic second generation, lag. As a result, the economic prospects of many remain up for grabs in this period of fiscal retrenchment.

This report provides a demographic profile of this population, discusses the barriers to educational and economic mobility, and sketches how postsecondary education, workforce development, and language training programs could better meet the needs of a population that will assume a greater role as the U.S. workforce ages.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

A. Defining Main Study Groups

B. A Note on Data Limitations

II. Demographic Profile

III. Risk and Protective Factors

A. Legal Status

B. English Skills

C. Family Formation and Parenthood

D. Poverty

IV. Educational Attainment of the First and Second Generation

A. Enrollment and Persistence in School

B. Gains in Educational “Quality” among Immigrant-Origin Youth, 1999 to 2009

V. Labor Market Outcomes

A. Recession’s Impacts

B. Who Makes Economic Progress?

VI. Conclusions and Policy Implications