Session IV: The Adaptation of Children of Immigrants: Barriers and Paths to Integration and Well-being


One out of four Americans are immigrants or the children of immigrants and their success in navigating the integration process will determine the future of American society. This Paper explores the patterns of integration and well-being among the children of immigrants in the areas of education, socioeconomic outcomes, and mental and physical health. Integration is the process of convergence with the native born on these measures. The concept of well-being measures whether the children of immigrants have positive trajectories relative to their parents on these indicators. In this Paper, Mary Waters will discuss the roles of legal status, race, and public policy in facilitating or impeding both the integration and the well-being of the children of immigrants as they move into adulthood, paying particular attention to the 5.2 million children in the US who have at least one undocumented parent. The precarious status of the undocumented and the toll that takes on both the immigrants themselves and their citizen children partially blocks integration and decreases educational attainment and health. Overall, the success of the United States at integrating immigrants and the second generation is tarnished by the counterproductive immigration policies in place. In addition, ongoing racial discrimination and conflict lead to large challenges for black and Latino immigrant children. Lastly, the Paper reviews the strengths of adopting a human rights perspective in addressing these issues.