The Role of Immigrant Children in Their Parents' Assimilation in the U.S., 1850-2010

Ilyana Kuziemko, Joseph Ferrie

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Chapter in forthcoming NBER book Human Capital in History: The American Record, Leah P. Boustan, Carola Frydman, and Robert A. Margo, editors
Conference held December 7-8, 2012
Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press

The presence of children in immigrant households can influence the assimilation of their parents, through either human capital transfers from children to parents (parents learning from their children) or the assistance children can provide in navigating economic life in the destination country (parents leaning on their children). We examine the relationship between the presence of children in U.S. immigrant households and the human capital acquisition of their immigrant from 1850 to 2010. We first show that immigrants who arrived in the Great Migration of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were substantially less likely to arrive with children than more recent immigrants. We then show that assimilation appears slower for most recent cohorts than those that arrived during the Great Migration, though in both eras cohort quality declines over time. Finally, we show that the immigrant children of the earlier immigrants were associated with more assimilation (less “leaning” and more “learning”) than were the children of post-1960 immigrants.

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This paper was revised on November 1, 2013

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Commentary on this chapter: Comment, Robert Whaples
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