The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective

The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective

The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective

The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective


One fifth of the population of the United States belongs to the immigrant or second generations. While the US is generally thought of as the immigrant society par excellence, it now has a number of rivals in Europe. The Next Generation brings together studies from top immigration scholars to explore how the integration of immigrants affects the generations that come after. The original essays explore the early beginnings of the second generation in the United States and Western Europe, exploring the overall patterns of success of the second generation.

While there are many striking similarities in the situations of the children of labor immigrants coming from outside the highly developed worlds of Europe and North America, wherever one looks, subtle features of national and local contexts interact with characteristics of the immigrant groups themselves to create variations in second-generation trajectories. The contributors show that these issues are of the utmost importance for the future, for they will determine the degree to which contemporary immigration will produce either durable ethno-racial cleavages or mainstream integration.

Contributors: Dalia Abdel-Hady, Frank D. Bean, Susan K. Brown, Maurice Crul, Nancy A. Denton, Rosita Fibbi, Nancy Foner, Anthony F. Heath, Donald J. Hernandez, Tariqul Islam, Frank Kalter, Philip Kasinitz, Mark A. Leach, Mathias Lerch, Suzanne E. Macartney, Karen G Marotz, Noriko Matsumoto, Tariq Modood, Joel Perlmann, Karen Phalet, Jeffrey G. Reitz, Rubén G. Rumbaut, Roxanne Silberman, Philippe Wanner, Aviva Zeltzer-Zubida, andYe Zhang.


Richard Alba and Mary C. Waters

Immigration is transforming the societies of North America and western Europe in ways that could not have been predicted a few decades ago. The roots of this population movement extend back to the middle of the twentieth century—a period of world war and recovery from wartime destruction—and they have been nourished subsequently by decolonization, economic development, and political instability in the Third World, along with the steadily shrinking significance of distance in human affairs, a development often referred to by the term globalization.

One consequence of these population movements has been the rise of ethnic, religious, and racial diversity in societies that previously thought of themselves as homogeneous, along with its permanent expansion in societies where immigration was already part of the national story. There is some degree of historical role reversal in this development, as countries such as Germany and Italy that previously were the source of many immigrants going elsewhere have become places where immigrants now settle in large numbers.

The second generation occupies a key position with respect to the future of the new groups and the societies where they reside, for this generation, born and/or raised in the host society, has a far greater capacity for integration than does the immigrant one. The term second generation is often taken in a broad sense to encompass the children who grow up in immigrant homes, whether they are born in the receiving society or enter it at a young age. In the more precise language of social-science research, the term second generation is usually reserved for those children of immigrants who are born in the host society, while the children who arrive at a young age and thus receive part or all of their schooling in the new society are called the 1.5 gen- eration, a term invented by the sociologist Rubén Rumbaut. In this introduction, however, we use second generation in the broader sense.

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