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Second-Generation Immigrants Overtaking U.S. Population Success

The U.S.’s second-generation Asian and Hispanic immigrants almost match or even exceed the rest of the population in household income, college graduation rates and home-ownership levels, a study released today said.

Those immigrants also are more likely than their parents to speak English, have friends outside their racial or ethnic group, and view themselves as a “typical American,” the Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends Project found.

The report comes as the White House prepares an immigration-policy package opposed by many Republicans who view the new arrivals as a costly population dependent on entitlements and likely to support Democrats. Immigrants and their children are expected to make up as much as 93 percent of the U.S. working-age population growth between now and 2050, according to a 2008 report by Pew cited in the latest study.

“The great American immigration experiment appears to be working in the 21st century as it has in the past,” said Paul Taylor, executive director of the Pew project. “It’s early yet. But so far, so good.”

The 131-page report described the latest tide of newcomers as part of the “Third Wave” of immigrants, including 44.5 million who have arrived in the U.S. since 1965. The second wave, consisting of 18.2 million newcomers, primarily from eastern and southern Europe, occurred from 1890 to 1919, when the U.S. population was 104.5 million. The first wave of 14.3 million immigrants, mostly northern Europeans, took place between 1840 and 1889, when there were 62 million Americans.

Backing Obama

About 77 percent of the newest wave of adult immigrants is Hispanic or Asian, the study found. Hispanics gave President Barack Obama 71 percent of their votes in his November re- election, exit polls show; Asians went for Obama by a 73-26 percent margin. The two groups make up half of second-generation immigrants, according to the Washington-based research organization.

The White House is pushing a path to citizenship for more immigrants, including the 11.1 million people, mostly Hispanics, that Pew estimates were living illegally in the U.S. in 2011.

Republicans have argued that any large-scale amnesty plan for illegal immigrants could encourage more people to move to the U.S. without documentation, causing increased demands on strained social services such as Medicaid, the $491 billion federal-state health program that provides care for 54 million poor and disabled Americans.

18% in Poverty

The Pew study found that 18 percent of three-person first- generation households live in poverty, higher than the U.S. rate of 13 percent. For the nation’s 20 million second-generation American households, only 11 percent have incomes below the poverty line.

Second-generation immigrants are more educated than the average American. Thirty-six percent of second-generation immigrants are college graduates, compared with 31 percent of all American adults and 29 percent of new immigrants.

The typical three-person U.S. household reported median income of $58,200, Pew said. Second-generation immigrants had median incomes of $58,100, and the median for first-generation households was $45,800.

One-third of Hispanic newcomers and 30 percent of first- generation Asian immigrants consider themselves to be “typical Americans.” That figure soared to 61 percent of both groups in the second generation, according to a pair of Pew surveys taken early last year.

Shared Optimism

The two groups also shared optimism about the benefits of working hard to succeed. Seventy-eight percent of second- generation Hispanics and 72 percent of Asian-Americans said it’s possible to succeed by working hard. Only 58 percent of the total U.S. population agreed, the Pew researchers said.

The study found some divergence between second-generation Hispanic and Asian immigrants. The children of Hispanic newcomers tend to work in lower-paying jobs and have less education. Fifty-five percent of second-generation Asians have a bachelor’s degree, compared with 21 percent of Hispanics. The median household income for second-generation Hispanics was $48,400, versus $67,500 for children of Asian immigrants.

“While large gaps remain between groups,” the Pew report said, “it is also the case that within each group, the second generation is doing better than the first on most key measures of economic success.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Frank Bass in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark McQuillan at; Flynn McRoberts at

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