The adaptation of the immigrant second generation in America: A theoretical overview and recent evidence

Alejandro Portes, Patricia Fernández-Kelly, William Haller

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261 Scopus citations


This paper summarises a research programme on the new immigrant second generation initiated in the early 1990s and completed in 2006. The four field waves of the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS) are described and the main theoretical models emerging from it are presented and graphically summarised. After considering critical views of this theory, we present the most recent results from this longitudinal research programme in the form of quantitative models predicting downward assimilation in early adulthood and qualitative interviews identifying ways for the disadvantaged children of immigrants to escape it. Quantitative results strongly support the predicted effects of exogenous variables identified by segmented assimilation theory and identify the intervening factors during adolescence that mediate their influence on adult outcomes. Qualitative evidence gathered during the last stage of the study points to three factors that can lead to exceptional educational achievement among disadvantaged youths, and which indicate the positive influence of selective acculturation. Finally, the implications of these findings for theory and policy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1077-1104
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


  • Cultural capital
  • Second generation
  • Segmented assimilation
  • Selective acculturation
  • Significant others


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