Immigrant Children and the Transition to Adulthood


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

The children of immigrants represent a large and growing segment of the US population. The children of immigrants are not progressing steadily as a group at the same rate or following a standard pathway to adulthood. Rather, there is wide variation across ethnic groups and immigrant generations, and immigrant children are not necessarily following the patterned sequence of the nonimmigrant majority. Immigrant youth reach developmental milestones such as educational attainment, job attainment, and achieving independence from parents, but they do so at varying rates and with different levels of success. These young people are diverse in terms of their backgrounds and the places where they come of age, and these factors interact in ways that help explain why they are following divergent pathways to adulthood. In particular, legal status—whether of immigrant parents or of immigrant youth themselves—has become a “master status” that conditions their path to adulthood. Future research must continue to identify the ways in which geography, local organizations, immigration reform, and other factors interact to shape opportunities that immigrant youth as they approach adulthood. The implications of the diverging developmental pathways of immigrant youth are significant, not only for immigrants and their families but also for the larger society. Given that they represent a large percentage of children today, these young people will heavily influence tomorrow’s workforce—and therefore the economic strength and security of this country.

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