, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 317-336

The educational enrollment of immigrant youth: A test of the segmented-assimilation hypothesis

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An analysis of 1990 census data on the educational enrollment of 15- to 17-year-old immigrants to the United States provides partial support for predictions from both the segmented-assimilation hypothesis and the immigrant optimism hypothesis. Most immigrant adolescents, especially from Asia, are as likely as their native-born peers to be enrolled in high school, or more so. The “at-risk” immigrant youths with above-average levels of nonenrollment that are not reduced with longer exposure to American society are primarily of Hispanic Caribbean origins (from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba). Recent Mexican immigrants who arrived as teenagers have nonenrollment rates over 40%, but Mexican youths who arrived at younger ages are only somewhat less likely to be enrolled in school than are native-born Americans.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 1999 annual meetings of the Population Association of America, held March 25–27 in New York City. The research reported here was conducted while the author was a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation. I thank Ann Glusker and Yih-Jin Young for their research assistance at an early stage of this research. I am also grateful to Albert Anderson of the University of Michigan for creating the extract from the 1990 PUMS file, to Brian Stults of the State University of New York at Albany for providing essential data necessary to code the central-city and suburban components of the PUMA areas in the 5% 1990 Census PUMS file, and to Kent Koprowicz of the University of Washington Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences for statistical advice. Reynolds Farley, Richard Alba, Marta Tienda, John Logan, anonymous reviewers, and the editors of Demography provided very helpful comments and suggestions on the research reported here.