Equity & Diversity

How Do Different Immigrant Groups Transition Into Adulthood?

By Mary Ann Zehr — April 27, 2010 1 min read
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Gaps in social, economic, and legal status are greater between different immigrant groups than between native whites and blacks in the United States, according to two researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

In an article published in the spring issue of The Future of Children, Ruben G. Rumbaut, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, and Golnaz Komaie, who earned a Ph.D. from that university, write that the most-educated group in the United States today is Indians who are first-generation immigrants. The least-educated group is Mexicans who are foreign-born. More than 88 percent of first-generation Indians from ages 18 to 34 are college graduates compared with 4.2 percent of first-generation Mexicans in that age bracket. Meanwhile 17.8 percent of black young adults have a college degree while 35.2 percent of white young adults do.

The authors note that a lack of legal permanent residency creates an obstacle for many immigrants to prosper in this country. They write that they support the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legalization for undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools and go on to college or serve in the military.

The paper on immigrant youths is part of a collection of articles by researchers in The Future of Children about youths’ transition to adulthood. The Washington-based Brookings Institution, which along with Princeton University publishes the journal, hosted an event today to feature the findings in the spring issue. The institution invited Juan Rangel, the chief executive officer for the United Neighborhood Organization, a Latino advocacy group that runs charter schools in Chicago, to speak about issues affecting youths from immigrant families. I visited two of the UNO charter schools and wrote about them for Education Week last fall.

Rangel stressed the goal of providing a high-quality education above any other goals in supporting youths from immigrant families. “People ask us, do we have an anti-violence program? Do we have an anti-gang program?” he said. “No, it’s just called school.” The best way to help Latino youths to succeed is to provide them with a solid education, he said.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.