Vulnerable Youth and the Transition to Adulthood: Second-Generation Latinos Connecting to School and Work

Kuehn, D.,
Pergamit, M.,
Macomber, J.,
Vericker, T.
Research Brief (9 pages)
Year Published: 2009
Urban Institute
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Office of Human Services Policy, US Department of Health and Human Services

Immigrants are a large and growing segment of the United States population. In the past 25 years, the United States has witnessed a 150 percent increase in the foreign-born population, with over 35 million foreign-born people living in the United States in 2005 (Vericker, Kuehn, and Capps 2007). Latino immigrants make up the majority of this growth; 53 percent of the foreign-born emigrated from Latin America (Larson 2004). As a result of this increase in the foreign-born population, the share of all US-born children with at least one immigrant parent has more than tripled. Currently, about one-fifth of all children are growing up in immigrant families. The rapid expansion of this population has led many to question how well youth with immigrant parents fare in early adulthood. As second generation Latino youth continue to make up a larger share of our population, their educational and labor market successes and failures will play a large role in shaping our country?s economic future.

Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 cohort, this brief examines young adult connections to school and employment (or connectedness) between the ages of 18 and 24 for children of Latino immigrants (second generation) compared with children of native-born Latinos (third generation), children of native-born non-Hispanic blacks (blacks), and children of native-born non-Hispanic whites and other race groups (whites).

Second-generation Latinos make a fairly smooth transition to young adulthood and make a better transition than black and third-generation Latino youth. Between the ages of 18 and 24, second-generation Latinos are more often consistently- connected (56 percent) than third-generation Latino youth (44 percent) and blacks (42 percent). In contrast, second-generation Latinos are less likely to be consistently- connected than white youth (65 percent). Yet, after accounting for various factors including characteristics of the youth, their families, and their neighborhoods, second generation Latinos are as likely to be consistently connected as white youth. In addition, second-generation Latino youth who are consistently-connected have similar annual earnings at age 23 as white, black, and third-generation Latino youth who consistently connect, suggesting earnings parity by generation and race among those who consistently connect. While these results are encouraging, it is unclear what the future holds for second-generation Latinos. They are less likely than whites to attend postsecondary schools in young adulthood. Specifically, they are more likely to have a high school diploma as their highest degree and less likely to complete a four year college degree than white youth; this disparity may create a large future earnings gap. Modified author abstract.

The Urban Institute, 2100 M Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037; Telephone: (202) 833-7200 Fax: (202) 467-5775, E-mail:, Website: or for download or
Publication available on the Internet free of charge.
Accession Number: