The Incidence Of Poverty Across Three Generations Of Black And White Immigrants In The Post Civil Rights Era: Assessing The Impacts Of Race And Ancestry

June 2006

Amon Emeka, Department of Sociology, University of Southern California.

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Recent debates on immigration have led to speculation regarding the socioeconomic advancement of immigrants and their children with some prominent scholars arguing that recent immigrants are of “low quality” and will have difficulty matching the accomplishments of immigrants of the early twentieth century. Others have suggested that immigrant progress will be hindered in the Post-Civil Rights Era, but not by immigrants’ own shortcomings. Rather, immigrants’ opportunities will be limited by deindustrialization and racism. This study examines patterns of poverty across three generations of recent immigrants from Africa, the Americas, and the Caribbean using U.S. Census data from 1980 and 2000. The findings here contradict the expectation that recent immigrants would not experience significant upward mobility. There is a nearly universal intergenerational decline in poverty among immigrants groups from throughout the western hemisphere—regardless of their racial or national origins. However, a significant Black disadvantage emerges in the “new second” that leaves Black immigrants more likely than all others to experience poverty in the U.S. It is a disadvantage that cannot be explained by origins, city of residence, age, education, employment, or marital status. All of this suggests that the success and failure of immigrants in the U.S. may have more to do with their placement in our most crude racial schemas than with their human capital.

Immigration, Inter and Intragenerational Mobility, Race and Ethnicity