Abstract: Examining the Socioeconomic Outcomes of First, Second and Third-Generation Immigrant Mothers: Who Fares Better? (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

320P Examining the Socioeconomic Outcomes of First, Second and Third-Generation Immigrant Mothers: Who Fares Better?

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Sherinah Saasa, PhD, Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
Kaitlin Ward, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Background and Purpose: Like many European countries, the United States has accumulated sizeable populations of immigrants over the past several decades. In 2016, about 43.7 million immigrants were living in the United States. Nonetheless, structural-economic and social-cultural barriers are often cited as contributors to the social and economic exclusion of immigrants and their children. Further, research in the United States points to racially stratified immigrant incorporation outcomes that suggest worsening socioeconomic outcomes with increasing immigrant generation for immigrants of color. However, there is limited research examining the relative socioeconomic position of immigrants and their children. This study aimed to compare a number of socioeconomic outcomes of first, second and third-generation immigrant mothers.

Methods: This study utilized data from the second two waves of the Fragile Families Child and Wellbeing (FFCWS) study. The sample consisted of 4056 mothers of which 46% identified as black, 21% white, 28% hispanic and 4% other. The outcomes of interest included educational attainment, employment status, income-to-needs ratio, neighborhood risk, living in a public housing project, marital status, and whether spouse is US-born Caucasian male. Control variables included mother’s age, race, English as a second language (ESL), and year mother came to the U.S. Using Mplus, logistic regression analyses were conducted for binary outcomes and linear regression was utilized for continuous outcomes.

Results: Approximately 21% of the sample identified as first-generation immigrants, 3% as second-generation, and 77% as third-generation and beyond. The mean age of mothers when the child was 3 years old was 28 (SD = 6.07). Chi-square tests revealed significant differences by immigrant generation in maternal education (χ2(6) = 133.20, p < .001), income-to-needs ratio (χ2(4) = 14.30, p < .01), employment status (χ2(2) = 11.34, p < .01), marital status (χ2(2) = 145.08, p < .001), and living in public housing projects (χ2(2) = 38.85, p < .001. Logistic regression analyses showed that first and second-generation immigrants fared better than third-generation immigrants regarding likelihood of living in public housing projects and advancing income-to-needs ratio (p < .01). First-generation immigrants reported less neighborhood risk and were more likely to be married compared to subsequent immigrant generations (p < .05).  Third-generation immigrants were more likely to be married to a white, U.S-born male compared to previous generations. Second-generation immigrants fared better than first and third-generation immigrants on educational attainment (p < .05). We also found that maternal race, age, ESL status and year came to the US were significant predictors of immigrant socioeconomic outcomes. 

Conclusions and Implications: Results from this study contribute to prior research by identifying supportive evidence of the role of immigrant generation on socioeconomic outcomes. Findings largely point to worsening socioeconomic outcomes with third-generation immigrants faring worse than previous immigrant generations. Implications for social work research and practice include the need for increased support toward integration of immigrants and their posterity. Further research is warranted investigating the exact mechanisms, structural or otherwise, that lead to these observed disadvantages as immigrant generation increases.