Concerns about the integration of Mexican-Americans have been amplified by the phenomenon of third generation delay, whereby the 3rd-or-higher generation has similar or lower educational attainment than the 2nd generation in analyses of cross-sectional data. Using unique longitudinal data, however, we find no evidence of third generation delay. Although Mexican-Americans still experience disadvantages, the educational attainment of third-generation Mexican-Americans increased dramatically and consistently across generations. The third-generation delay pattern seen in cross-sectional analyses stems in large part from historical disadvantages in starting points and educational mobility. Finally, our results reveal dramatic improvements in Mexican-American educational opportunities among the children of immigrants since the 1970s. Overall the results indicate that cross-sectional assessments of Mexican-American integration are misleading and underestimate this group’s prospects going forward.
Jennifer Van Hook is the Roy C. Buck Professor of Sociology and Demography Director at Penn State University's Graduate Program.