CHICAGO, IL - Descendants of Mexican immigrants in the United States may be making better socioeconomic progress than many studies indicate, researchers say.
Some recent studies have raised red flags about the economic progress of Mexican-Americans, saying third- and fourth-generation Mexican-Americans are no more likely to graduate high school than second-generation Mexican-Americans, with wages stagnating after the second generation as well.
However, two U.S. economists, writing in The Journal of Labor Economics, say these studies all share a common problem that is skewing the results.
"Almost without exception, studies of later-generation Mexican-Americans rely on ethnic self-identification to identify the population of interest," Brian Duncan of the University of Colorado and Stephen Trejo of the University of Texas said.
That's a problem in the studies, the researchers say, because many immigrant descendants may not identify themselves as Mexican-American on surveys or census forms.
This is especially true for the children of Mexicans who intermarry with non-Mexicans, they said, and their research shows children of intermarried Mexicans tend to have substantially higher educational attainment and better English language skills.
"In effect, through the selective nature of intermarriage and ethnic identification, some of the most successful descendants of Mexican immigrants are not included in intergenerational studies," Trejo said.
About 30 percent of third-generation Mexican youth fail to self-identify as Mexican, they found.
Previous studies are often cited as evidence that Mexican immigrants and their descendants are failing to assimilate in American society, but Duncan and Trejo said they believe the opposite is true.
"Many Mexican immigrant descendants are assimilating to such an extent that they fade from empirical observation," Trejo said.