Second Generation: Ethnic Identity among Asian Americans.

socioeconomic status and upward mobility of second generation immigrant





Mary C. Waters & Reed Ueda

with Helen B. Marrow


Cambridge, Massachusetts

London, England 2007

The Second Generation

Nancy Foner and Philip Kasinitz

The te’.m “~ene.rati~n” is used in at least three distinct, albeit interrelated, ways in the social sc1e1:ufic l1terarnre. The first is in che sense of an age cohorr-chat is, peo- ple of approximately the same age who experience the same histo rical evems at roughly the same points in their individual devdopmenr. le is chis sense we use wh~n we speak of rhe “Woodstock generai:ion” or the “baby boom generation,” ‘:htch the late demographer William AJonso said has been passing through institu- tional structures of U.S. society like a “pig through a python.”

A s~cond me~ning.of”~eneration,” one favored by anthropologists, refers co ge- nealogical rank In a kinship system-for example, che relationship of individuals to parents in the generation before or children in the generation after. Finally, in stud- ies of immigration, “generation” is used as a measure of distance from the “old country.” Thus we usually speak of people who move to rhe U.S. from another soci- ety as adults as being “first-generation” immigranrs, their American-born children as ~he “second generation,” and their children in rum as the ”rhird generation.” This numb~ring system is nor without controversy and has ideological implications. Until the m1d-20rh cenrury social scienciscs, social workers, and journalists often re-

ferred to people born in the U.S. to immigranr parents as “first-generation Ameri- cans” rather t~an “second-generadon” immigrantJ. Although rhis usage has generally fallen our of favor among social sciendsr it remains common in everyday speech . In recenr years rhe numbering scheme has also grown more complex, with the wide- spread adoption. of Ruben ~umbaut’s term the “1.5 generation” for people born abroad who emigrate as children and are largely raised in che U.S. Further re- finements-the “J.25 generation,” the “1.75 generation,” soon followed .

For the large wave of .southern. and eastern European immigranrs char began around 188? and ~nded 1 n the mid-1920~. these rhree meanings of “generation” were closely mterrwmed. By the 1930s, even in the mosr “ethnic” of American com-

271 The Second Generation

munities and neighborhoods, rhe overwhelming majoricy of children were born in the U.S. Many (in some cases most) of their parents were immigrants. As this sec- ond generation aged together, they experienced a confluence of the historical co- hort, kinship, and distance-from-the-old-country meanings of “generation” that of- ten blurred the distinction among the three. Being the children of immigrants (and the parents of the third generation) and experiencing the historical events of the mid-20th century in young adulthood were so commonly linked as to create a dis- tinct second-generation identity, both in the minds of the children of immigrants and in American popular culture.

As early as 1938, Marcus Lee Hansen observed distinct differences in attitudes toward ethnic identity between the second generation and their third-generation children, with the second generation anxious to assimilate and the third generation sentimentally invested in ethnicity. However, as Vladimir Nahimy and Joshua Fish- man would later point out, Hansen attributed these differences to largely ahistori- cal social-psychological processes, ignoring the specific historical context char also shaped the experiences of the two cohorts.

For contemporary immigrants and their children, the situation is different. With continuing immigrant inflows, new first-generation immigrants in many communi- ties today are often younger than third-generation adults. Second- and third-gener- ation young people share neighborhoods, classrooms, and workplaces with recent immigrants their own age. “Old country” ways and identities are thus less associated with chronological age than in the past. Further, new immigrants may bring more up-ro-date versions of the sending society’s culture to ethnic communiti~s . The si~­ uation is also complicated by the greater degree of transnationalism and circular mi- gration among contemporary immigrants. Some second-generation members, ~­ though born in the U.S., spend considerable time in their parents’ homelands while growing up, and many recent immigrants come from communities where large numbers of returned migrants have already challenged traditional ways.

Contemporary immigrant communities vary in the degree co empha- size distance from rhe old country versus chronological age when thinking about generational divides. Among Japanese and Korean Americans there are clear linguis- tic designations for people born abroad, chose born in the U.S. of immigr~~t par- ents, and those whose parents were born in the U.S.: Issei, Nissei, and Sansei mJap- anese; Ilsae, Yisae, and Sansae in Korean. Within their communities, these groups

are thought of as having different attributes and different relarionships to the ~en~- h “‘l’ ” h ch IS ing and host societies. Korean Americans also use t e term 1 Jeom osa~, w. 1

literally translated as the “1.5 generation.” Within the Korean comrnumty chis g~n­ eration is often seen as having the greatest difficulty in adjustment, a fact chat JS a cause for concern among community leaders.

Among other comemporary immigrant groups, generational distinctions seem less precise and less clear. Cuban Americans are very conscious of generational and

The New Americans 272

historical differences between the “exile generation” and chose born in rhe U.S., and they amicipare whar it will mean for rhe communiry when the former passes from rhe scene. Mexican Americans make distinctions between chose born in the U.S. and in Mexico and distinguish both from the descendants of populations who lived in the Southwest when it was still part of Mexico. Indeed, the terms used for people of Mexican descent of different political stripes and in different parts of the country (” Hispano,” “Chicano,” “Mexican American,” “La Raza,” etc.) have implications

for the imporrance of U.S. birth in shaping identity. Moreover, rhe long and com- plex hiscory of Mexican immigration makes it difficulc co disentangle chronological age from number of generations in the U.S. in shaping generational identity. Do- minicans and Puerto Ricans have also developed terms ro refer ro members of the community born on the U .S. mainland (usually in New York)-“Dominicanyorks” and “Nuyoricans.” Yet the high level of back-and-forth migration, changes in home communities, and the importance of a disrincrive youth culture mean that these

terms are ofren as much about age cohort as actual birthplace. One area in which there dearly are strong generational differences among almost

all contemporary immigram groups is language use. As in the past, America re- mains “the graveyard of languages.” Studies have consistently shown chat the large majority of second-generation immigrants have made the transition co English, char they are much more likely ro speak English fluently than their parents, and chat rhey are far less likely than their parents to speak with a strong accent. This is true even in parts of the country where another language (usually Spanish) is widely spo-

ken and even when media in the parents’ original language are widely available. Sec- ond-generation groups do differ in the degree to which rhey maintain fluency in the parental language in addition to English. Not surprisingly, commonly spoken lan- guages in the U.S. and chose written in the Larin alphabet, such as Spanish, are maintained more often than those that are rarely spoken in the U.S. or that are ex- tremely different from English. Fluency in written Chinese, for example, is unusual among second-generation Chinese Americans, despite a well-developed infrascruc- rure of Chinese schools dedicated ro the maintenance of the language. Further, there is little evidence that maintenance of chc parental language comes at the ex- pense of English fluency, even among chose groups in which second-generation bi- lingualism is common.

Immigrant Generations and Social Mobility

By 2000, approximately 10 percent of che U.S. population was “second generation” in the sense that they were born in the U.S. and have ac least one foreign-born par- ent. (About the same proportion are first-generation immigrants.) Although chis second-generation group includes many older adults whose parents came to this country before 1965 (and even before 1924), the majority are children and young

273 The Second Generation

adults whose parents arrived afrer 1965. As Table I indicates, the Mexican second generation dwarfs all others. More rhan a quane~ ~f native-born Americ;ans with at leas{ one foreign-born parent are of Mexican ongm, as are almost a third of chose with two foreign -born parents. Alrogecher, nearly rwo our of five second-generation individuals have a parent (or parents) born in Latin America and the Caribbean. As Rumbaut notes, the sizable Canadian and European second generations are largely the surviving offspring of immigrants who arrived before World War II, with a median age in the late fifties, compared to a much younger average of 12 ro 13 years for the U .S.-born offspring of immigrants from Latin America, rhe Carib-

bean, and Asia. The second generation now makes up more than a quarter of the nation’s His-

panic and Asian populations. By conrrasr, almost 90 pecccnc of black.and non-His- panic white Americans crace their roots in the U:S. back three generaci~~s or longer. The fact chat so much of the second generation 1s of non-European ongtn and con- sidered “nonwhite” stands in sharp contrast to earlier periods and raises questions

about the future of race relations and social mobility in the U.S. In che academic literarure and popular imagery of the incorporation into Ameri-

can society of the overwhelmingly European immigran~ of th~ la~c 19th and. ~ly 20th centuries, the idea of generation was closely associated with ideas of assrnula- tion. The general assumption in che standard accounts of “scraighc-linen assimila- tion theory is that each generation (in the distance-from-the-old-country sense of the ccrm) becomes progressively more “American.” Whatever culcural and psyc~o­ logical costs this Americanization process may entail,. it is ~eoeraUy seen as .. en~bl~ng upward mobili cy within U.S. society. In popular discussions, the term ass1mila-

:Table l The second-generacion population of che U.S. by parental nativity and national origin, 1998-

2002 (percentages) One parent foreign-born,

Total (2.0 and Both parents foreign- one parent U.S.-born

Region and national origin 2.5 generations) born (2.0 generation) (2. 5 generation)

Mexico 26.1 3 J.5 19.6

Other Latin America and 12.5 14.7 9.6

Caribbean 10.5 Asia and Middle East 14.4 17 .4

Europe and Canada 43.9 33.4 57.6

Sub-Saharan Africa 0.1 0.1 0.1

All others 2.4 2.2 2.6

Tota] number 26,990,359 15,297,057 11,693.302

Id h”c files (March), Souru. Rumbau! (2004), p. 1184. Based on merged Current Populat1on Suivey annua emograp 1

1998 through 2002.

The New Americans 274

rion” came ro be used almosc synonymously with upward mobiliry. ‘What these ac- counts rarely ac:knowledged was rhc role of rhe specific historical condidons- American economic ascendancy, posrwar prosperiry, suburbanization, rhe gro,vth of the mass media, and che rise of organized labor-that facilicaced boch che accultura- tion and the upward mobility of the children of European immigrants who came of age and carved out work and family careers in the 1940s and 1950s.

In speculating about the possible future of the largely “nonwhite” children of post- I 965 immigrants, many social scientists have been less optimistic about sec- ond- and third-generation upward mobility. In 1992 Herberr Gans turned the as- sumptions of traditional assimilation rheory on their head, warning that many of che contemporary children of “nonwhite” immigrancs were in danger of “sccond- generarion decline” relative to their irnmigram parents. Like uaditional nbservers of assimilation, Gans assumes that substanrial second-generarion acculcuracion is ca.k- ing place and that the children of irnmigrancs are co share rhe values and outlooks of their American peers. This, Gans suggests, may lead chem ro reject the low-stacus “immigr3JH jobs” held by cheir parencs. Yet those who face racial discrim- inarion, poor-quality educarion, and declin ing real wages may lack opporrunirics in che mainmeam economy and thus be downwardly mobile. The ocher possibility is chac the children of immigrancs who are well placed within the American labor marker will be less anxious to “become American” and stay tied co their parents’ eth- nic communiry. This mighc lead ro better economic ouccomes but less culrural as- similation.

Alejandro Pones and Min Zhou make a similar argument in their ofren-cited I 993 article on segmented assimilation, a model that Portes and Rumbaut ex- panded in their 2001 book, Legades. The most influcncial of che “revisionist” per- spectives, segmented assimilation describes the various outcomes of different groups of second-generation you ch and argues that the mode of incorporation for the first generarion gives the second generadon access to different kinds of opporrunities and social nenvorks. Those who are socially closesr co lower-class and particularly to minority Americans may adopt an oppositional, “reactive” ethnicity. In general, the second generation may acquire a hose of American bad habits, from low rates of sav- ing to eating high-fat foods co watching mo much television, which may actually hinder upward mobility.

By conrrast, rhose groups chat maincain strong intergeneracional ethnic networks and fewer tics co U.S. minoric1es, it is argued, experience a “linear” ethnicity which creates networks of social tics and may provide access to job opportunities while re- inforcing parental auchoriry and values and forestalling acculrurarion. Zhou and Bankston’s work on Vietnamese yourh in ew Orleans makes perhaps the dearesr case for the bem:fits of preserving ties to the ethnic community, even ac che expense of acquiring connections with the dominant sociery. They see home-country lan- guage recention as an advanragc for the second generation. as it facilitates participa-

275 The Second Generation

tion in che ethnic economy, where opportunities may exceed those in the main-

stream economy. Of course, the idea that second-generation assimilation has costs is hardly new.

Early 20th-century immigrants and those who wrote abouc them often expressed concern about intergenerational conflict and the heartache it produced. Nor is there anyrhing new abouc the complaint that che second generation is becoming the “wrong kind” of Americans or the idea that a dense “ethnic enclave” can provide a bulwark against the worst effects of the American streets. Yet in earlier times voices skeptical of the promise of assimilation for the children of European immigrants were in the minority among intellectuals, social sciemists, and in the inunigrant communities themselves. Today, against a background of such factors as rising in- come inequality and continuing racial divisions, belief in both the possibility and the value of assimilation seems less pervasive. In fact, since the early 1990s many have speculated that contemporary American culcure will actually undermine the ability of the second generation-particularly those seen as nonwhite-to make it

in American society. However, as more of the contemporary second generation has come of age and

joined che labor force, che data have generally not supported the dire predictions of second-generation downward mobility. Alba and Nee’s review of national data and studies by Kasinitz, Mollenkopf, Watc:rs, and Holdaway in New York, and even Portes and Rumbaut’s longitudinal data from Miami and San Diego, all show that on most indicators of social and economic achievement, Asian and European sec- ond-generation immigrancs often outperform the children of native whites. B~ack and many Latino second-generation members, while trailing behind native whites, are doing significamly bercer than members of native minority groups. .

The Mexican American second generation is of special concern, because of its enormous size and the low educational and occupational status of a high propor-

tion of the parents. Not only do the children of Mexican immigrants lag behin~ native whites in educational and occupacional attainment, but as Joel Perlmanns analysis of recent census data brings out they drop ouc of high school a~ very high races. However, young second-generation Mexican· male dropouts are likely to b.e working, che majority of chem full-cime. Overall, the U.S.-born offspring of Mexi- can immigrants do beccer than their parents Ln education and ~arnings . !hey are also more likely than their immigrant parents to work at white-collar 1obs. Al- though Perlmann shows chat graduation rates from four-year colleges_ arc m.uch lower among rhc Mexican second generation {ages 25-34) chan native whites, about the same proportion-about a third-had some college cducatio~ , a .figure thac implies chat a substancial minority of the Mexican second generauon is pre·

pared for white-collar positions. It is also worth noting thac second-generacion success rarely seems tied to con-

nections with the ethnic enclaves of the parents. If anything, such enclaves can serve

The New Americans 276

as safety nets for che least successfu l members of the second generation, buc (hey ace rarely springboards 10 upward mobiliry. Among the most economically successful immigram groups. such as Dae Young Kim shows among Korean Americans, rhe second generation is usual ly anxious co avoid both econom ic and geographic echoic enclaves. Of course, che bulk of the contemporary second generation is still young. As Deborah Wo_o reminds us, we cannor yet say whar glass ceilings even relacivc:ly successful groups may face in the furure. Stil l, Accord ing re mosr early indicators, today’s second generation seems to be assimilating into Amedcan sociery more rap- idly than immigrants of cht: past . While chis has nor led to universal upward mobil- ity, rhere is little evidence rhac a signincanc portion of the second generation is be- coming pare of a permanent urban underclass, as some early observers feared .

Relations between rhe Generations

First-generation immigrants and rheir American-born children have distinctive ex-

periences and frames of reference, and this affects the relations between them. This is an old immigrant story, and many of the tensions between rhe generations to- day are much like those reported in earlier eras. As before, the stress is typically on intergenerarional conflict–or the generation gap-between immigrant parents .>teeped in old-country traditions and values and second-generation children who have grown up in the American social and cultural world.

Of course it is possible to exaggerate the extent to which intergenerational con· flict is an immigrant phenomenon. It is important to ask whether the immigrant experience is largely to blame for tensions and conflicts between the first and second generations or if they are attributable, at least in pan, to life-stage differences be- tween p;irenrs and adolescent children that affect most Americans.

Adolescents in American society typically seek greater independence and auton- omy while parents seek ro assert their authority. Young people adopt styles of dress, decoration, music, and dance that their parents do not understand-and often can- not stand. Yet the strains rcsulring from “normal” teenage rebelliousness or lifestyles often become magnified and intensified when parents come from another country and culture and arc unfamiliar with or disapproving of mainstream American values and practices. And while many young people bemoan the fact that their parents “just don’t undersrand how things are today,” for the children of immigrants, who are lirerally coming of age in a different society from the one in which their parents did, the complaint may be particularly apt. Whereas rebelliousi1c:ss among Ameri- can adolescents represents a conflict between an adolescent world and an adult world, the second generation, as Zhou notes, also has to struggle to make sense of the inconsistencies between two adult worlds: that of the immigrant community or family and chat of the larger society.

Inrergeneracional conflicrs may be particularly acute in groups whose cultural

277 The Second Generation

panerns and practices differ radically from those in the broader American culture. In this regard, it is imporrant to note chat immigrant parems often hold up an ideal- ized version of traditional values and customs as a model for their children, even though these values and customs have often undergone considerable change since immigrants left the home country. Indeed, as Foner has nored, immigrant parents in the U.S. may construct a version of old-country traditions as a way to make sense of their current experience: or to buttress and legitimate their familial authority.

One source of intergenerational conflict is discipline. In some cultures of origin, such as Viemamese and Chinese, talking back to parents is a heinous offense. In the West Indies, corporal punishment is widely practiced. West Indian parents often fear that if they discipline children in the way they think best, they risk being re- ported to state agencies for child abuse. Just how common such reports actually are is unclear, yet even the theoretical possibility that children might appeal to U.S. le- gal authorities can be a flashpoint for tensions becween the generations, giving chil- dren added leverage in relations with their parents and laying bare the conflict be- tween U.S. and home-country behavioral norms.

For their pan, members of the second generation, reared in an American culture that encourages early independence for children, often view their parents as author- itarian and domineering. The parents, with their often romanticized old-world standards, may think their children rude and disrespectful. A vicious cycle may en- sue. AB parents feel frustrated and threatened by the new values and behaviors their children are exposed to, they may attempt to tighten the reins, which heightens children’s resentment and desire to flout parental controls.

Sexual relations are a particular source of tension. Immigrants from cultures where dating is frowned upon or forbidden can be frightened and appalled by their teenagers’-especially daughters’-desire to go on dates, to say nothing of the issues faced by gay and lesbian young people caught between the norms of their parents’ communities and the relative openness of American youth culture. Immigrant par- ents are often much stricter with daughters than with sons, and seek to keep girls close to home or to control their social activities. In many groups daughters are also given household responsibilities, such as caring for younger siblings, at an age when their brothers are encouraged to be independent. This double standard can lead im· migrant families to cut short daughters’ educational pursuits or force them to at· tend less prestigious institutions closer ro home. Seil!, among all but the most ~ighly educated of contemporary immigrant groups, girls outperform boys academically. The work of Nancy Lopez on Haitians, West Indians, and Dominicans and of Rob- ert C. Smith on Mexicans suggest that second-generation girls’ more highly struc· tured and monitored lives can have positive effects on educational attainment. Of course, for better or for worse, many second-generation girls experience these re· stricrions as unfair and are torn between the pursuit of independence, autonomy, and romantic love and the desire to be dutiful daughters.

The New Americans 278

A funher source of conflict is parental pressure to marry wirhin the ethnic group. In che New York Second Generation Srudy, Kasinitz, Mollenkopf, \Varers, and Holdaway report that among the children of immigrants, in almost every group a

majority-usually a large majority-reject the notion that it is important to marry within the group. a view they acknowledge is often not shared by their parents. When ir comes to actual rates of out-marriage, not only do ethnic groups vary, but there is also considerable variation by gender. Out-marriage among second- and third-generation Ease Asian women has become common-far more common than among second- and third-generation East Asian men (rhe gender gap in our-mar- riage is also true for Latinos, though to a lesser extent). The effect of this gender gap on ethnic identity and family life across the generations has yet to be fully studied. Erhnic groups also vary markedly in age at marriage. Among Chinese and Korean Americans, the typical age of firsr marriage is now relatively high, partly because large numbers pursue postgraduate education. Yer we suspect that some young peo-

ple among these groups are forestalling conflicts with parents over acceptable mar- riage parrners by simply postponing marriage altogether.

An extreme case where immigrant norms are out of sync wirh chose of che domi- nant American culrure is arranged marriage, a common practice in many South Asian and Middle Eastern sending societies. Arranged marriages, needless co say, conflict sharply with the emphasis on romantic love and fulfilling one’s own destiny so conspicuous in American youth culture. Of course, conflicts over arranged mar- riages are increasingly common in many of the immigrants’ countries of origin as well. Yer in the U.S., children may be encouraged to reject traditional arranged mar- riages by the mainstream society’s culture and in some cases by its legal institutions as wdl. In response, gradual changes in arranged marriage norms are taking place in U.S. ethnic communities. “Semi-arranged” marriages, in which young people have some elements of choice, are increasingly common. Young people may be given an informal vero power over parental choices or are introduced to acceptable partners and then allowed a brief courtship in which rhey decide whether or not they wish to marry. Even wich chese changes, many second-generation youth bristle at parental pressure.

Another point of contention across the generations has to do with intense, and often high, parental expectations for their children. Immigrant parents feel they have made sacrifices so their children will get ahead in America, and when the chil- dren do not succeed or make educational or occupational choices at odds with pa- rental expectations, conflicts can result. As Annelise Orlc::ck puts it in her study of Sovier Jews, chilJren can hear the voices of rheir stressed and tired parents whisper-

ing, “We did this for you,” and Dae Young Kim reporcs that among second-genera- tion Korean Americans, the pressure to “repay” the sacrifices of immigrant parents in rhe form of educational attainment can be intense.

The pattern of pushing children to do well in school or to pursue a course of

study that will lead to a high-paying profession can have unintended negative con-

279 The Second Generation

sequences. According to Diane Wolf’s analysis, many second-generation Filipinos feel alienated from their parents as a result of these pressures. Filipino family ideol- ogy compounds the situation by requiring people co keep problems within the fam-

ily. Thus members of the second generation feel caught in a lonely bind: they can’t tum ro their parents, who are causing the problems, nor can they tum to others, for fear of further sanctions. Vivian Louie’s study of Chinese American college students also highlights the pressure parents put on their children to pursue “practical” fields of study; while mentors and advisers urge talenred young people to follow their dreams, parents urge them ro seek out lucrative and secure careers. Yet for all of these concerns, it must be noted that the disproportionate number of second-gener- ation immigrants among the nation’s leading young writers, artists, and musicians (and indeed, social scientists) suggests that at least some second-generation young people are being encouraged to pursue their dreams, lack of pecuniary rewards not-

withstanding. Finally, there are the tensions related to children’s role as translators, mediators,

and interpreters for non-English-speaking parents. This reversal of roles, with chil- dren acting as mentors and experts and parents as dependents, can create a host of problems. The young people may be embarrassed by their parents’ inabiliry to fill our forms, make appointments, and conduct business on their own and be annoyed by the imposition on their rime. They may also feel uncomfortable learning about family secreis–or about intervening and mediating-in the process of translating in medical, legal, and other social settings. Whether boys find the role reversals more difficulr than girls is an open quesrion, although evidence suggests that girls tend to take on more translating responsibilities, especially when it comes to home-

related matters. Translating and interpreting can also give children power over their parents,

which may exacerbate conflicts and accentuate the gulfs between them. Indeed, children may deliberately use knowledge of English as a tool against their parents and as a way to keep their lives separate. Understandably, this creates rescncmcnc

among parenrs, who dislike their dependence on their children for rranslaring

government documencs and other material a.nd for communicating wirh English- speaking officials, professionals, and merchants. Parenrs may worry, in fact , chat their chiJdren are not cranslaring corrc::ccly- and a number of studies report in- stances where children deliberately miscranslare repon:s from teachers, saying that a

grade of F means “fine,” for example. lnrergene.rationaJ strains and conflicts are most prominent in the family arena,

ycr they occur in other domains as well-policies, workplaces, and ethnic associa- tions, to name three. Studies of religious congregarions indicate that members ~f che second generacion may segregare themselves from che immigrant generacion m these settings because they feel estranged from rhe erhnic ambiance, and in some re- ligious instirutions, members of rhe second genCIJlrion resent being denied access co meaningful authority roles. In poliricaJ organizations and communiry groups, the

The New Americans 280

second generarion, particularly those with a U.S. college educarion, may have a dif- ferent perspective on ethnic group identity as well as a different scyle of political ex- pression from those whose early political experience was in anorher sociecy. Nicole

Marwell’s work on Domjnican acriviscs indicates a far grearer influence of the American civil rights movement on both rhe sryle and the substance of policicaJ ex- pression among che second, as compared with rhe first, gencr:ition, as wdl as a grca~er willingness to work closely wich ocher Latinos. and African Ameticans. Simi-

larly, Yen Le &piriru’s study of panerhniciry amorig Asian Americans notes a greater pancrhnic consciousness of “Asian” (as opposed to “Chinese,” “Korean” or ”Viet- namese~) identicy among rhe second generation. This “Asian American” identity,

which often emerges on American college campuses, appears to represent a form of

assimilation in which members of the second generation have come co think of

rhemselves in American racial terms.

For all of rhe potential for intergenerational conAicr, ir is important to note that strains and conflicts are only one part of the story. Families create emotional tics that bond and bind, and even when members of the second generation chafe under

pa.rental conma.ims and obliga ions, rhe vase majoriry feel deep affecrion for and loyalty co their parents and recognize the importance of family. These conrradicrory

pulls may be especially srrong for daughter~ . who are subject t0 micr parental con- trols yet at lhe same cime are heavily involved in household acti\’ities. Porres and

Rumbaur argue rhac when pa.rents and children boch acculturate at the same rate (”consonant acculturacion”)–or when “selective acculrurarion” occurs in the con- texc of a dense coerhn ic communicy that promoccs partial retention of rhe pa.rems’

home language and norms–d1ildren arc bs prone ro feel embarrassed by their parents and more willing ro accept parencal guida11ce, thereby reducing rhe likeli- hood of intergenerational conilict. .

It should also he noted that multigenerational households are more common

among immigram groups 1han among natives in the U.S. today. Indeed, for most middle-class Americans it has become normative co leave che parental home before age 20, to pursue higher education, join che armed forces, or simply mike out on one’s own. Young adulrs who return co their parents’ home in their twenties are labeled “boomerang kids” or ~lLYAS” (“incompletely launched young adults~).

They are seen as somehow unsuccessful , and their rising numbers are considered a social problem. Br comrasr, in many immigrant families young people ai:c seen as making che rransicion to adulthood nor by leaving the parental household bur

rather by beginning re make financial contributions to ic. As Holdaway observes, chis propensity to live in multlgcncrarional households, whatever its emotional com, is a considerable financial advanc:ige, parricularly in high-cost housing mar- kers such as New York and Los Angeles, where many immigrants are concen- trated. Ir may parcially explain why working-class im migrants in those merropoli- ran areas are more likely co own homes than narives of the same age and in.come

(,..) level. CD -..J

281 The Second Generation

In general, parents and children often work out accommodations and compro- mises as a way to get along. Far from being inflexible traditionalists, most immi-

grant parents adapt and change in the new context. This can mean givi~g children more say in marriage arrangements, to give an example from South Asian groups, or, as a study of the Haitian second generation reports, extending the evening cur-

few hour or permitting dating earlier than parents would like. Some West Indian parents, according to Waters, are learning new techniques from their children, who explain how American or Americanized friends are disciplined. Evidence suggests

that parents with higher levels of education and economic scacus are more likely to

work our these accommodating strategies to ensure peace and harmony, perhaps be-

cause they are more exposed to American coworkers and colleagues than chose with

less education or lower-wage jobs. As for the second generation, they are not inevitably rebels, nor do they necessar-

ily reject or entirely abandon their parents’ ways. 1;1a~y. ~esr Indian. teenagers ‘.n Waters’s study, for example, defended their parents d1sc1plmary prarnces and said that when they grew up and had children, they would try to combine West Indian srriccness with American freedom and openness. In general, whatever members of

the second generation chink about their parents’ standards, they ofte~ try to conceal their behavior from parents in order tO avoid clashes, and rhey may simply go along with parental expectations co keep the peace, especially when the surround~ng com- munity-neighbors and ocher social contacts-back ~P ~arent~ aut~omy. Rela- tions berween che rwo generations, in sum, are filled with mc.ons1srenc1es and con-

tradictions, and shifi: in different conrexrs and over time. In many (perhaps most) cases, conAicr is mixed with cooperation and caring, and rejection of some parental

standards and practices is coupled with acceptance of others. The same can probably be said abour relations between the contemporary second

generation and their children (the third generation), although it is t~o early to say much about the nature of these relations. Ar this point, we know lmle about the

emerging third generation, mosc of whom are still very young. Amo~g the many important questions is how this third generacion-.-rhe U.S.-born children of the

U.S.-born second generation-will fare educacionally and occupacionaUy, and. how they wilt relate to thc:ir immigrant heritage ~d co chcir grandpar~nts’ ~unmes ~! origin. As only a ciny number of che grandchildren of post-1965 1mm1grancs ha reached adulthood, these copies muse await further study.


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