Most U.S. Hispanic Kids Have Immigrant Parents

By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 29, 2009

A majority of Hispanic children are now U.S.-born children of immigrants, primarily Mexicans who came to this country in an immigration wave that began about 1980, according to a report released yesterday.

The analysis of census data by the nonpartisan, Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center charts a substantial demographic shift among the nation's 16 million Hispanic children, who constitute one of the fastest growing child populations in the United States and account for more than one of five U.S. children. As recently as 1980, nearly six of 10 Latino children were in the third generation or higher, meaning that their parents, and often their grandparents and great-grandparents, were native-born U.S. citizens. Only three of 10 were in the second generation -- born in the United States to parents who immigrated.

Now those U.S.-born children of Latino immigrants account for 52 percent of all Latino children, according to the study.

The share of first-generation Latino children, meaning those who were born abroad and immigrated themselves, has dropped from 13 percent to 11 percent since 1980.

The findings are particularly significant because by many measures second-generation Latino children face significant challenges compared with their third-generation peers and non-Hispanic whites. Forty percent have parents who have less than a high school education, compared with 16 percent of third-generation Latino children and 4 percent of non-Hispanic white children, according to the study.

Similarly, 21 percent of second-generation Latino children are not fluent in English, compared with 5 percent of third-generation Latino children. And 40 percent of second-generation Latino children have at least one parent who is in the country illegally.

However, the study found almost no difference between the poverty rates of the second and third generations: About one in four such children live in poverty. And the second generation is more likely than the third to live in married-couple households: 73 percent, compared with 52 percent.

The nation's 1.7 million first-generation immigrant Latino children, who are more likely to be in their early teens, tend to fare the worst: One-third live in poverty, 43 percent are not fluent in English and nearly half were born to parents who did not finish high school.

But although the total number of first-generation Latino children is likely to increase, study co-author Jeffrey S. Passel projected that their share of the total Latino child population will remain low in coming decades, as more second-generation Latinos are born and today's second-generation Latino children start having children of their own, creating a third-generation boomlet.

By 2025, nearly one in three children in the United States will be Latino, according to Passel.

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