Mexican American Mobility: Early Life Processes and Adult Wealth Ownership.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Mexican Americans are a large group whose mobility patterns can provide important insight into immigrant assimilation processes. It is well known that Mexicans have not attained economic parity with whites, but there is considerable debate about the degree to which Mexican immigrants and their American-born children experience mobility over their lives. We contribute to this literature by studying Mexican American wealth ownership, focusing on three interrelated processes. First, we examine childhood poverty and inheritances to establish financial starting points and to identify the degree to which resources from prior generations affect wealth ownership. Second, we study impediments to mobility in young adulthood to understand how childhood conditions create early adult obstacles to wellbeing. Third, we study midlife net worth and homeownership to better understand whether childhood and young adult impediments necessarily reduce adult wealth ownership. We find high levels of early life disadvantage among Mexican Americans, but these disadvantages are least pronounced in the second and third generations compared to the first generation. Consistent with prior research, we also find high levels of young adult impediments to mobility for Mexican Americans. However, we find that these early roadblocks do not necessarily translate into lower adult wealth: we show that Mexican Americans have less total wealth than whites but more than African Americans, even when early life impediments are controlled. Our results suggest that Mexican Americans are establishing a solid financial foundation that is likely to lead to long-term class stability.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Keister, LA; Vallejo, JA; Borelli, EP

Published Date

  • March 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 93 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 1015 - 1046

PubMed ID

  • 31171883

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC6548331

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1534-7605

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0037-7732

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/sf/sou102


  • eng