Minority Status, Generational Status and Educational Attainment: A Test of the Human Capital and Immigrant Optimism Perspectives

Kristina L. Zeiser, Pennsylvania State University

Despite the increasing equality in college attendance rates between white and Mexican students in America, disparities in college completion persist. The human capital and classical assimilation theories propose that these disparities should decrease over generations as native-born Mexicans achieve English language skills similar to whites. However, the immigrant optimism and segmented assimilation theories suggest that disparities will increase as native-born Mexicans reject education as a means of social mobility. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), multinomial logistic regression models are performed that compare the educational attainment of native whites to first, second, and third generation Mexicans and test whether these disparities can be explained by test scores or family background characteristics. Supporting the immigrant optimism perspective, the findings suggest that, relative to native whites, second generation Mexicans are experiencing more success in both two-year and four-year institutions than their third-generation counterparts net of test scores and family characteristics.

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Presented in Session 156: Immigrant Generations