Second generation Americans more successful than parents, study shows
Published: Monday, March 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
When sophomore Phil Botta’s father immigrated to the United States from Italy unable to speak English, his first two jobs included selling products for General Electric and working as custodial manager at the university. Now, years later, Botta’s father is an owner of Café Verdi, a pizzeria located in Trolley Square of Wilmington.
Botta said his father is very intelligent, and he looks up to him.
“He’s a people person and I respect him for it,” Botta said. “Seeing him work hard makes me want to work hard.”
A recent study conducted by a Pew Research Center analysis of the U.S Census Bureau indicates second-generation Americans like Botta are likely to be more successful than their parents in terms of income and education. Additionally, the study found three-quarters of second-generation Americans believe hard work is the key to success, compared to the 58 percent of the full U.S. population who share this belief.
Additionally, the study found three out of 10 immigrants consider themselves American.
Comparatively, six out of ten children of immigrants identify as American, but with close ties to their ancestral roots. Mark Miller, political science and international relations professor and expert on international migration, said children of immigrants oftentimes have an easier time than their parents adapting to American culture.
“Second-generation Americans become Americanized very quickly,” Miller said.
The United States has had two major influxes of immigration, Miller said. The first was the arrival of the Irish in America in the 19th century, especially in the Philadelphia area.
At this time, intense feelings of nativism arose, meaning established residents of the nation demanded favored status above immigrants, he said.
“Eventually, municipalities and governments adopted steps to keep out the Irish,” Miller said. “It got so pervasive the Supreme Court held all ordinances in violation of the federal prerogative to make immigration law for the U.S.”
During the second influx, Central and Eastern Europeans immigrated to the United States from 1880 to the beginning of World War I, where a majority of the immigrants were Jewish. This second migration led to the drastic restriction of immigration through the Quota Acts of 1921 and 1924.
Similar to the Irish, Central and Eastern Europeans with an Islamic background did not have issues adapting to American culture, Miller said. Although some were worried about their integration, Miller said second-generation Muslim Americans follow the path of intergenerational integration and typically accept democratic values.
“Modern immigrant groups are the same as the Irish,” junior John Labrador said. “Each migrating group is looking for the same thing, and no one is coming for the wrong reasons.”
Labrador, whose parents immigrated to the United States from the Philippines in the early 90s, said his father came to try and establish a secure financial foundation before he brought his family over. Although Labrador moved at a young age, it took him eight years to apply for citizenship, he said.
Labrador said the cultural roots of his parents are still preserved in his household by holding tight to Filipino traditions and memories. Additionally, since moving to the United States, Labrador said his parents have made a lot of friends who are also Filipino.
Sophomore Bimal Amin’s parents came to the United States from India in the ’90s. He said they were in their mid-thirties when they arrived in New York. Moving from New York to Pennsylvania and eventually ending up in Delaware, Amin’s parents knew they had found a home in the US, he said.
Amin attributes his work ethic and focus to hearing about and watching the hard times so many immigrants face.
“You see them working 24/7 and there’s this mentality that comes with it,” said Amin. “You realize all they’re doing is for you and you want to give 110 percent back.”
Botta said his heritage is maintained in both the family business and the home.
“It’s not at all hard to preserve,” Botta said. “I love being Italian. My family owns a pizzeria, my mom is Italian by heritage and my grandmother is always over and she doesn’t speak any English.”
Second-generation Americans’ desire to work as hard as their parents is a wide-spread sentiment, Labrador said.
“For my parents to come here, they had to work hard,” said Labrador. “The second-generation knows what their parents did and they emulate them.”