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Press Release · May 18, 2005

More Than 40 Percent Of State’s Youth Are Children Of Immigrants

Today’s Second-Generation Children – Tomorrow’s Voters, Labor Force

SAN FRANCISCO, California, May 18, 2005 – The children of immigrants now make up a larger share of the state’s population than they have since 1920, according to a new study released by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). The size of this group makes their well-being crucial for the state, and the report, Second-Generation Immigrants in California, finds that although some segments of this second generation are doing well on critical dimensions, others are not.

The number of residents with at least one foreign-born parent grew from three million in 1970 to more than seven million today. This group now accounts for close to one-quarter (21%) of the state’s residents. Because they are so young, they account for even more of California’s children – 41 percent today compared to 37 percent in 1994. Consequently, their presence in state colleges and universities, in the labor force, and at the polls will increase dramatically in the near future.

“How successfully the second generation comes along has enormous implications for the state’s future economic vitality and social well-being,” says PPIC research fellow Karthick Ramakrishnan, who co-authored the study with PPIC research fellow Hans Johnson. The good news is that the second generation is doing well in many ways. Among all racial and ethnic groups, on nearly every measure, the second generation fares better than the first. For example, 21 percent of first-generation Latino adults live in poverty compared to 12 percent of the second generation; and among Asian and Pacific Islander adults, poverty rates drop from 11 to 9 percent between the first and second generations.

The bad news is that there are serious disparities among second-generation groups, with some trailing far behind in education and income. Particularly troubling in today’s economy is the difference in college graduation rates: Only 10 percent of second-generation Latinos graduate from college, compared to 52 percent of Asians and 35 percent of whites. This is especially worrisome because Latinos make up 67 percent of the second-generation children who will reach adulthood in California in the next two decades.

Considering the amount of diversity that the study identifies, policymakers are facing a varied and complex demographic, including dozens of countries of origin, changing residential patterns, and differing levels of English proficiency.

More Key Findings

  • Over half (54%) of the state’s second-generation population is younger than 18.
  • Over half (55%) of all children in Los Angeles County are second-generation immigrants.
  • Unlike the state’s second-generation children, the proportion of second-generation adults has declined slightly over the past decade but will increase in the future.
  • Parents of second-generation children come from dozens of countries – but Mexico predominates: 58 percent of second-generation children have fathers born in Mexico. Following far behind, six percent have fathers born in the Philippines, five percent in El Salvador, and three percent in Vietnam.
  • Los Angeles County (26%), Ventura County (23%), and the San Joaquin Valley (23%) have the largest shares of second-generation immigrants, followed by San Diego and Orange Counties (20%), and the Bay Area and Inland Empire (19%).
  • In every region of the state, Mexico is the top country of origin among second-generation immigrants – but the next leading countries vary: El Salvador and Guatemala in Los Angeles County, the Philippines and China in the Bay Area, and Vietnam and India in Sacramento Metro.
  • The second generation is more likely than the first generation to live outside the state’s large central cities (61% to 55%).
  • Eighty-nine percent of second-generation Asians between the ages of 5 and 24 speak English only or speak English very well, compared to 71 percent of second-generation Latinos.

The Public Policy Institute of California is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett.