Children of Immigrants and the American Dream – Success Stories in the Making

A cartoon of a bunch of immigrants crossing a finish line

The American Dream is something all of us recognize as part of our nation’s heritage. As the land of opportunity, each American citizen enjoys the chance to work hard and advance their status. Through commitment and dedication, we can strive to have our own version of the American Dream. And in the process, improve our own lives and that of our children for future generations. In fact, the American Dream and its promise is what served to attract millions of immigrants to the U.S over the last century.

When it comes to American heritage, foreign immigrants play a notable role in our nation’s success. They too have come to the country in pursuit of the American Dream, and over the decades, many have realized success. Despite notable barriers, immigrants of both past and present continue to contribute to the benefit of society. But it may surprise you to learn that immigrant success in attaining the American Dream actually exceeds that of native-born Americans. However, this is exactly what recent research has revealed.

Immigrant Success in Economic Mobility Over the Years

If someone suggested immigrant success in economic mobility exceeded that of native-born Americans, you might question their statement. However, researchers at Stanford, UC Davis, and Princeton have found this to actually be true. The researchers compared over a million father-son pairs spanning 100 years examining economic mobility. What they found was amazing. Compared to native-born father-son groups, those from other countries demonstrated greater achievements within 1-2 generations. In other words, immigrant success in attaining the American Dream was better.

In the study, the researchers looked at father-son groups who were in the 25th percentile for income. Then, they looked at the economic mobility that future generations demonstrated. Their data not only included immigration waves in 1880 and 1910, but also those involving the late 1970s and early 1980s. After reviewing the data, it was clear that immigrant success in attaining greater economic mobility exceeded native-born Americans.

What’s Behind Immigrant Success in Attaining the American Dream?

At first glance, these findings regarding immigrant success may be surprising. But in actuality, several factors help explain why immigrants achieve greater economic mobility in their pursuit of the American Dream. For one, the researchers noted that the location where immigrants choose to live gives them an advantage. Most choose to live in large urban cities, which offer more jobs and opportunities. As newcomers to America, they don’t have to make a decision about moving away from family or their U.S. home. Being able to choose a big city easily gave immigrants a definite advantage for improved economic mobility over time.

At the same time, these larger urban areas offer pockets of other immigrants new to the U.S. This means that foreign newcomers have greater access to social supports that can help provide stability. Those from similar ethnic backgrounds not only make their new environment more welcoming. But likewise, they can serve as resources to help immigrant success in finding jobs. And larger urban settings also offer greater educational opportunities when compared to rural areas. All of these factors help explain why immigrants may enjoy greater economic mobility over time.

Lastly, there is one other possibility that helps explain greater immigrant success in the pursuit of the American Dream. Many immigrants enter the U.S. in an effort to escape more difficult living situations. As a result, they have already adopted a survival mentality that may not be as prevalent among those already living in the U.S. This mentality is not only associated with a strong work ethic, but it also encourages greater sacrifices for one’s children. As a result, the energy invested to succeed and attain higher economic mobility might be stronger due to past experiences.

Past and Present, Immigrant Success Remains Constant

On average, immigrants who were evaluated in the research study achieved more than 5 percent better economic mobility that others. While this is impressive, it was also noteworthy that immigrant success was not limited to a particular group. Immigrants from Europe achieved significant economic mobility in the 1880s and early twentieth century. But likewise, immigrants from Mexico and the Dominican Republic also enjoyed the same success in more recent times. In other words, the nation of origin failed to predict immigrants’ ability to attain the American Dream. Consistently, immigrants showed better economic mobility over time when compared to native Americans in the same social status.

With this in mind, these findings highlight an important point. Specifically, anyone can achieve the American Dream if they choose to pursue a bold life to the fullest. In all likelihood, this is the mindset many immigrants have when coming to America. And their commitment to being the best they can be fuels their success over time. By making smart choices about where to live, and by investing heavily in one’s success, anyone can realize their potential. These are the key qualities that allow each of us to achieve the American Dream. And ultimately, these are the factors that help us attain our boldest goals in life possible.

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