Rising immigrant inflows have substantially affected the size and composition of the U.S. workforce. They are also exerting an even bigger intergenerational effect: at present one-in-ten native born children are in the 'second generation' born to immigrant parents. In this paper we present a comparative perspective on the economic performance of immigrants and their children, utilizing data from the 1940 and 1970 Censuses, and from recent (1994-96) Current Population Surveys. We find important intergenerational links between the economic status of immigrant fathers and the economic status and marriage patterns of their native born sons and daughters. Much of this linkage works through education: children of better-educated immigrants have higher education, earn higher wages, and are more likely to marry outside of their father's ethnic group. Despite the dramatic shift in the country-of-origin composition of U.S. immigrants since 1940, we find that the rate of intergenerational assimilation has changed little. As in the past, native born children of immigrants can expect to close 50-60 percent of the gap in relative economic performance experienced by their father's ethnic group.
Published as David Card, John DiNardo, Eugena Estes. "The More Things Change: Immigrants and the Children of Immigrants in the 1940s, the 1970s, and the 1990s," in George J. Borjas, editor, "Issues in the Economics of Immigration" University of Chicago Press (2000)