World’s Strangest

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The Immigrant Paradox

NY Times columnist David Brooks asks: Are new immigrants wrecking the social fabric of the United States? Or is it the other way around? Is America corrupting them instead?

Back in 2010, researchers from Brown University have noticed that first generation immigrant children generally outperform second and third generation immigrant children, despite having the largest linguistic and cultural barriers. They call this “Immigrant Paradox“:

“These are very unusual findings,” said Garcia Coll, the Robinson and Barstow Professor of Education, Psychology and Pediatrics at Brown. “In a time where immigrants are seen as detriments to our society and not making contributions, what this research is telling us is that the first generations come in with amazing energy and amazing capabilities of surmounting lack of education in parents, poverty, and language differences. The tragedy is that as some kids acculturate and become American, they start doing worse.”

Now, a new research from the University of Florida found further support for the Immigrant Paradox: the second and third generations also tend to get into more trouble. Mildred Maldonado-Molina, et al. looked at the pattern of DUI arrests and found that first-generation immigrants have the lowest rate of DUI arrests, as well as marijuana and alcohol use. Second generation US-born Hispanic youth has higher rates of those three things, and third generation even worse.

Interesting, huh? What do you think the reason for immigrants’ children and grandchildren doing progressively “worse” in those metrics?


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