Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

College-educated undocumented young adults face same narrow range of jobs as their parents

Date:
July 26, 2011
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
Parents who move to the United States without legal status generally seek better opportunities for their young children. But a new survey of life trajectories of undocumented young adults raised and educated in America shows that they end up with the same labor jobs as their parents, working in construction, restaurants, cleaning and childcare services.

Roberto G. Gonzales is a sociologist studying the life histories of undocumented young adults raised in the United States. He is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration, and previously an assistant professor in the University of Washington's School of Social Work.
Credit: University of Washington

Parents who move to the United States without legal status generally seek better opportunities for their young children. Their kids grow up Americanized: speaking English, attending public school, going to the prom and dreaming about what they want to do when they grow up.

Many assume these youths will achieve more than their parents. But a survey of life trajectories of undocumented young adults raised and educated in America shows that they end up with the same labor jobs as their parents, working in construction, restaurants, cleaning and childcare services.

The results appear in the August issue of American Sociological Review.

"This is a population of young people who, because of their legal integration through the school system, learned to work hard and pursue the American dream," said Roberto G. Gonzales, author of the survey and an assistant professor at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration. "Many of them grew up believing that being able to speak English and having an education should be able to get them more than their parents."

Gonzales did the study while he was an assistant professor at the University of Washington's School of Social Work. He conducted life history interviews with 150 mostly Mexican-origin undocumented young adults -- about equal numbers of men and women -- who had been brought to the U.S. before age 12. The respondents lived in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and were 20 to 34 years old.

His findings could illuminate how current immigration laws don't adequately accommodate the ever-increasing number -- now at 2.1 million -- of children and young adults who are brought to the U.S. as children and left to figure out how to navigate their adult lives without legal status.

"Through the U.S. public school system, undocumented children are integrated into the legal framework of this country," Gonzales said. "But as they reach adulthood, they are cut off from the means through which to live the lives for which school prepared them."

Gonzales, a sociologist, wanted to learn how undocumented youths learn of their immigration status and how they come to cope with its effects on their identity, friendships, career aspirations and daily lives.

Most of the people surveyed told Gonzales that they first felt the effects of their non-legal status between the ages of 16-18, usually when they sought part-time jobs, driver's licenses or admission to college, which require a social security number.

Many respondents told Gonzales that they felt confused, angry, frustrated, scared and stigmatized when they learned of their immigration status. Their social habits changed out of fear of who to trust. Career plans halted. Arrest and deportation became constant threats for many, Gonzales said.

Returning to their native country was not a viable option for most of the respondents, because they lacked important social and professional connections, job options, Spanish fluency and familiarity with the culture and customs of their birth country.

Miguel, one of the respondents, had intended to go to college and then law school. When his mother told him in high school that he wasn't legal, he said: "I didn't know what to do. I couldn't see my future anymore."

Cory, age 22, blamed her parents for not telling her sooner about her non-legal status. "I feel like a kid, I can't do anything adults do," she said. Most respondents expressed similar sentiments of developmental limbo.

Seventy-seven of the respondents decided to go to college as a way to stay legally protected by the school system and to try to improve their career options. Relationships with teachers, friends and family were key to whether the respondents attended college, Gonzales found.

But college experience didn't help the respondents broaden their job options. Once they left school, they faced the same narrow range of jobs as their parents and high school peers who did not go to college. None of the 22 respondents who had graduated from four-year universities, or the nine who held graduate degrees, was able to legally pursue their chosen careers.

By their late 20s, respondents reported coming to grips with their illegal status, focusing on what they could do rather than what they couldn't.

Gabriel, a 28-year-old who attended some community college classes, told Gonzales that he sees work as just one piece of his life and that he gets more satisfaction out of his relationship with his girlfriend and being in a dance circle. "I just get sick of being controlled by the lack of nine digits," he said.

"His aspirations flattened, he accepted his fate," Gonzales said of Gabriel. "Is that why we educate our youngsters? Is that the future we want for them?"

Gonzales said that educators and policymakers have important roles to play in helping undocumented youth transition into adulthood. "The problems facing undocumented children and young adults underscore the need for a more diverse approach to immigration policy," he said.

The study was funded by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. The original article was written by Molly McElroy, News & Information. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "College-educated undocumented young adults face same narrow range of jobs as their parents." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110726092136.htm>.
University of Washington. (2011, July 26). College-educated undocumented young adults face same narrow range of jobs as their parents. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110726092136.htm
University of Washington. "College-educated undocumented young adults face same narrow range of jobs as their parents." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110726092136.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program

NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program

AP (Apr. 15, 2014) The New York City Police Department has ended a program that once kept tabs on the city's muslim population. (April 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

AFP (Apr. 14, 2014) To curb the growing numbers of feral cats in the US capital, the Washington Humane Society is encouraging residents to set traps and bring the animals to a sterilization clinic, after which they are released.. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins