Origins and Destinations

The second generation in the USA


  • Renee Luthra


second generation, integration, assimilation, intergenerational mobility, immigration, ethnicity


As of the last census in 2010, one in four children in the United States had a foreign born parent. This growing “second generation” immigrant population represents the most diverse segment of American society: the children of cleaners, builders, and crop-pickers, as well as corporate moguls, inventors and scientists, their parents arrive from all corners of the globe and bring with them socialization experiences representing a wide range of the world’s cultural variation. Moving in a world where no one is free to cross state borders simply as they wish, today’s second generation also have families which span international boundaries, and unequal legal rights to move across them or even to reside in the country in which they are raised. Foreign origins, and inequality in legal status separates the experiences of the second generation from all others: as a result of these uniquely international influences on the lives of the children of immigrants, a sociology of the second generation requires an international perspective to understand the diversity in second generation school, work, ethnic attachment and political life. This article provides an overview of the second generation in the USA today and introduces this necessary international perspective, showing how it absorbs hypotheses from existing multiple theoretical frameworks – foremost assimilation and segmented assimilation. The utility of this framework is illustrated through two empirical examples: the relative importance of individual and group level variation in explaining second generation educational attainment, and the role of legal status in predicting political behaviours.





Luthra, R. (2018). Origins and Destinations: The second generation in the USA. Siirtolaisuus-Migration, 44(3), 5–11. Noudettu osoitteesta