Origins and Destinations: The Making of the Second Generation

This book provides a new way of understanding The Making of the Second Generation, one that brings both origins and destinations into view.

Immigrant offspring are raised in one country to parents who grew up in another; though certainly not remaining the same people they were at the moment of departure, those parents can never fully free themselves from the grip of the values and orientation implanted in them in childhood. Hence, the context of emigration is a key source of national origin difference, as parents socialized abroad transmit lessons learned in their home country to children raised in the United States. In arriving in a foreign country, those same immigrant parents move through a system of migration control. Because that system sifts them by legal status in ways that vary from one group to another, it generates a context of immigration that favors some groups over others, yielding a second source of inter-group difference.

Diversity in second generation experiences doesn’t simply fall out along the lines of national origin; rather, trajectories vary among immigrant offspring whose parents stem from the very same place. While those differences arise from a variety of bases, we emphasize the international dimension. International migration generates internationalized families, which is why immigrant children often grow up with homeland connections. International migration also takes citizens out of their home countries and moves them into a foreign state, where they all begin as aliens, a disadvantageous condition. Yet even immigrant parents stemming from the same place differ in the extent and intensity of their homeland ties as well as in the legal status they enjoy at the time of arrival. And so these parental disparities also shape second generation trajectories, producing variation among immigrant offspring originating in the very same place and socialized by parents likely to have had shared common value orientations at the time of their departure from home.

Systematically assessing hypotheses from multiple theoretical frameworks – foremost assimilation, segmented assimilation, and transnationalism – the book demonstrates the utility of our new perspective. Instead of blanket generalizations about entire ethnic groups, we open up the black box of ethnic membership, developing clearly traceable, objective measures and implementing a methodology that together demonstrate whether or not national origin matters and if so when. We discover that, despite the preoccupation with ethnic group differences, within group, not between-group differences, are more important. Previously unobserved international influences at the family level – differences in legal status and the strengths of cross-border ties – affect second generation achievement in school and work, citizenship and civic engagement, and ethnic attachment.


Dr Renee Luthra, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Essex
Thomas Soehl, Assistant Professor in Sociology, McGill
Professor Roger Waldinger, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, UCLA

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