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The Adaptation of the Immigrant Second Generation in America: A Theoretical Overview and Recent Evidence

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This paper summarises a research programme on the new immigrant second generation initiated in the early 1990s and completed in 2006. The four field waves of the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS) are described and the main theoretical models emerging from it are presented and graphically summarised. After considering critical views of this theory, we present the most recent results from this longitudinal research programme in the form of quantitative models predicting downward assimilation in early adulthood and qualitative interviews identifying ways for the disadvantaged children of immigrants to escape it. Quantitative results strongly support the predicted effects of exogenous variables identified by segmented assimilation theory and identify the intervening factors during adolescence that mediate their influence on adult outcomes. Qualitative evidence gathered during the last stage of the study points to three factors that can lead to exceptional educational achievement among disadvantaged youths, and which indicate the positive influence of selective acculturation. Finally, the implications of these findings for theory and policy are discussed.
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Keywords: Cultural Capital; Second Generation; Segmented Assimilation; Selective Acculturation; Significant Others

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-08-01

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