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The Role of Immigrant Children in Their Parents' Assimilation in the U.S., 1850-2010 (WP-14-04)

Ilyana Kuziemko and Joseph Ferrie

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). Kuziemko and Ferrie examine the relationship between the presence of children in U.S. immigrant households and the human capital acquisition of their immigrant parents from 1850 to 2010. They 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. They then show that assimilation appears slower for more recent cohorts than for those that arrived during the Great Migration, though in both eras cohort quality declines over time. Finally, the authors show that the immigrant children of the earlier immigrants were associated with more assimilation (less “leaning” and more “learning”) than were the children of more recent immigrants.

Ilyana Kuziemko, David W. Zalaznick Associate Professor of Business, Columbia University

Joseph Ferrie, Professor of Economics, and Faculty Associate, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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