The American Dream And The Children Of Immigrants
N. P. R. and everyone this indicator for planet money I'm Cardiff Garcia historically immigrants to the United States face a lot of professional barriers I once they arrive here a language barrier lack of contacts restrictions on where they can work and more and on the whole poor immigrants to the US typically have not caught up to the professional success of the people born here which sounds like it contradicts the American dream but what if we brought in the concept of the American dream to include the children of immigrants imigrants well then you get a different story a group of economic historians has just released a big new study of past cohorts of immigrants and their kids and it found that the children of immigrants into the past have actually shown more economic mobility they've climbed higher up the income ladder than the children of poor American born parents and it also found that the children more recent immigrants are assimilating into the economy just as well as those immigrants the past so today on the show we're going to speak with Dr Leah boost on one of the authors of this new working paper who reveals what its findings tell us about the American economy today that is coming up right after the break this message comes from NPR sponsor capital one Margaret Mayor leads the technology teams building. Iino the intelligent assistant from capital one. The goal is to answer customer questions to help customers we created Enos language model based on actual conversations Sion's our customers had stay tuned after the episode to learn more about how Margaret and her teams are training E-e-e-e-no to understand customers banking questions in all their variations percents doctor Labou Stan thanks so much for being on the podcast thank you for having me so in this new working paper you in your co-authors I studied three different cohorts of immigrants and their children and you studied how well they did in terms of their incomes over their lifetimes why don't you start by telling US talk about the three cohorts you studied our first cohort are immigrants who are already living in the US in eighteen eighty and our second cohort were immigrants who are living in the US in nineteen ten those groups are pretty different from each other actually immigrants that were in the US eighteen eighty were primarily from northern and western Europe so the UK Germany Ireland and so on by nineteen ten there was a much wider set of immigrant sending ending countries including countries from southern and Eastern Europe like Italy and Russia and Poland and then our third cohort are the immigrants that were more familiar with today today and those are immigrants from all over the world but especially from Mexico from Central America and from Asia Okay and what did you find even even though immigrants themselves are pretty slow in increasing their earnings their children are doing remarkably well so we focused on comparing the children of immigrants grants to the children of American born parents people who are in the lower middle class into the working poor and we're looking at households that during the parent your generation are earning around the same amount and then asked how are the kids doing thirty years later and all of the kids were on average doing a better than their their parents but the children of immigrant parents were doing notably better than the children the American parents yet that's fascinating were you surprised surprised by any of these findings by the way we were surprised by our findings in two different ways I we were surprised at how similar the success of with children of immigrants were between past and present and what we found was that immigrants today in the children of Immigrants Today are doing just as well as immigrants in the past at achieving social mobility and moving up the economic ladder and then the other thing that was surprising as we were able to break down down our data by the country of origin of the parents we thought well maybe there are some countries that are driving driving our results in are responsible for the fact that we're seeing such successful mobility it turns out that the mobility patterns are present they are for art immigrants from almost every sending country in the world yeah that's interesting too because it at least suggests that the countries of origin the places were immigrants came from don't really matter that much for how well their kids similarly right exactly if you look at historical politicians politicians and commentators they would point to the southern and Eastern European groups that were new at the time and say these immigrants are not as successful as immigrants from the past and and we should start to restrict immigration as a result and what we found is that that was not true that southern Eastern European kids from those backgrounds were just as successful full if not more successful at achieving social mobility and then the same thing is true for today we were able to look at forty seven different sending countries the Caribbean Ian Central America Africa Europe various parts of Asia and we found that with only three exceptions the children whose parents parents hailed from all of those forty seven countries where cheating more social mobility than the children of American born yet in your paper also includes a kind of who'd you've done section where you and your co author is trying to figure out just why the children of those earlier poor immigrants those immigrants from eighteen eighty and nineteen ten just why why they're children had more social mobility than the kids with American parents and a big part of the answer was place and specifically that the places within the US that the immigrants moved to were also the places with strong labor markets with a lot of opportunity jobs whereas the American born parents were not always willing to move to those places can you kind of just take us through that so there are certain states and then within state certain cities and towns that seem to be associated associated with higher social mobility for children are question was if we were to take an emigrant and an American born household located in exactly the same place may be right down the street with their children look different and the answer we came up with was no so all of the differences that we find in the paper between the children immigrants and the children of the American born can be traced back to where immigrant families choose to locate and a lot of that actually in the past was really a north-south Arthur south divide the country at the time was fifteen percent foreign born but the US south was around two percent foreign born so very few immigrants grants chose to go to the US south at the time and south was a place with low social mobility opportunities for kids so because immigrants avoided the south and even outside of the south were selecting areas that had opportunities for upward mobility for their kids that was the way that emigrants were able to help their kids move up the ladder yeah that is so intriguing because there is a modern conversation going on about the importance of place and what that means for jobs availability for how much money people make and opportunities for their kids and there's suggests that place is in fact a very powerful determinant for how successful people are and how successful their children are exactly exactly and it puts more of a role on place than it does on the sort of ineffable immigrants work ethic or immigrant culture so you will often hear about immigrants doing well because they try harder or because they care more about education or that they have a family based culture that supportive supportive we don't want to take away from those possibilities for the present because that's not something we were able to look at but at least for the past it seems like geography perfect is far more important than something intangible about being an immigrant yeah in terms of the modern conversation the idea is that as the economy evolves that a lot of jobs might be created in cities or certain urban centers and that if people are willing to move to those places that's that's were they'll have a lot of economic mobility but that Americans people who were born here understandably might have very close ties to where they're from to the places places where the jobs are being created or don't pay as well and so there's GonNa be some friction there that people might not move in immigrants don't have those ties ties to a US place by definition they're coming from another country it sort of goes to show the importance of place in that regard and it also kind of informs the current debate debate even though the data from the past well one thing that's special about immigrants as a people is that they have revealed themselves as willing to leave home and that's already eh quite a big step as you said I mean it's already taking risks and striking out on your own and so that might be the feature that allow immigrants grants to succeed don thanks so much for being on the show thank you. This episode of the indicator was produced by Jared Marcel. Our intern is not Louis our editors Paddy Hirsch indicator is production of NPR the following message comes from our sponsor capital one either my name is Margaret Maher I lead the technology teams that build are intelligent assistant the goal for is to answer customer questions to help customers so for me people really underestimate the power of understanding it's one thing to look at the words right and say oh I know exactly what that means but you know that meaning because a lot of experience that you've had so one of the things we've had had to do is train e-e-e-e-no a ton in order for it to get context and understanding in the banking domain in banking you know it's all very specific Pacific so when you're asking about your account information we just want to understand those meanings in terms of providing great customer service people can ask a lot of different questions in people will always surprise us they'll ask different things in different ways and we're really looking to make sure that has a broad understanding of different ways customers can ask questions so as much as hostile were accurate in returning the answer to the question the customer wants to meet Iino the intelligent assistant from capital one go capital one dot com slash iino.