Princeton Faculty and what they're working on
August 23, 2002
Sociologist Alejandro Portes examines the children
of immigrants and their assimilation
|Alejandro Portes continues to follow
the lives of thousands of second-generation immigrant children
in San Diego and Miami.
America has been called a nation of immigrants, and the waves of
immigrants who have come to the U.S. from every corner of the globe
have been well documented over the years.
Researchers and demographers, however, often overlook the children
of immigrants. But that is changing, and sociology professor Alejandro
Portes, who has studied immigration and urbanization for 30 years,
is playing a large role in creating a foundation of research that
will help expand knowledge in this area.
He has moved to the fore of this field with the publication of Legacies:
The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation in 2001, which he coauthored
with Ruben Rumbaut, a Michigan State University professor. The exhaustive
work that went into the book included interviews with 5,200 immigrant
children and 2,500 of their parents beginning in 1992 in the San
Diego and Miami areas. The book has already won several awards,
most recently the Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award from
the American Sociological Association.
As Portes sees it, the longterm effect of immigration on the U.S.
does not come so much from the immigrants themselves as from their
children, the second generation.
Recent research estimates the 20 percent of children under 18 are
children of immigrants, and is the fastest growing sector of the
countrys child population. By 2040, 33 percent of the nations
children will fit this description. The impact that this group of
immigrant children most coming from Latin American, Asian,
Caribbean, and African families - will have on the U.S. in
the 21st century is yet to be determined.
The fate that the second generation experiences is going to
determine the long-term position in the American hierarchy of their
ethnic group, says Portes, who was appointed the Howard Harrison
and Gabrielle Snyder Beck Professor of Sociology in February after
five years at Princeton and who is also the director of Princetons
Center for Migration and Development. If the second-generation
kids succeed in integrating themselves into the mainstream, than
you would find that group as an addition to the American mainstream,
the middle class, and a successful process.
If they fail because they do not have the education, the credentials,
or drop out of school, they can add to the underclass at the bottom
of American society. Thats why it was very important to examine
in reality how the process of adaptation was taking place for these
Portes will be passing on his research knowledge in the Research
Methods in Social Science class he will be teaching this fall. He
will also be teaching a class on urbanization and development in
the Third World, especially Latin America.
By Argelio Dumenigo
Write to Argelio at firstname.lastname@example.org