Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-66nw2 Total loading time: 0.494 Render date: 2021-12-01T19:45:02.037Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

5 - Wealth and Poverty

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Laird W. Bergad
City University of New York
Herbert S. Klein
Stanford University, California
Get access


There has been a long debate in the academic literature about the relative skill levels of Latino immigrants, their wages compared to domestic-born workers, and whether or not they have depressed salaries for unskilled and semiskilled laborers, particularly African Americans. There has also been considerable discussion about whether there has been economic and social mobility within Latino communities, especially for second- and third-generation children of Mexican and other immigrants. Some have assumed that part of the story of Latin American and Caribbean immigration is economic stagnation and low levels of social mobility over time. Others have argued that the experiences of Latino populations are unique and that they are unlike previous waves of migrants and their descendants in the United States in terms of integration or acculturation levels into the dominant society.

An unfortunate and inaccurate image of enduring poverty has emerged and this has obfuscated the fact that from a historical perspective the Latino population of the United States is very much like every racial and ethnic group with respect to social and economic stratification, as well as mobility. Additionally, there are extraordinary similarities when Hispanics are compared with prior waves of migration to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. The large-scale arrival of immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean after 1980, many of them coming from impoverished rural environments, has surely exacerbated the problem of poverty within Latino communities. Yet, a solid and growing Latino middle class has emerged and high-income-earning individuals, families, and households exist within each national group and in every major region of Hispanic population concentration. An examination of income data since 1980 reveals the difficulty of making sweeping and often impressionistic generalizations about Latino economic performance.

Hispanics in the United States
A Demographic, Social, and Economic History, 1980–2005
, pp. 123 - 191
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Borjas, George J.Katz, Lawrence F.The Evolution of the Mexican-Born Workforce in the United StatesBorjas, Geogre J.Mexican Immigration to the United StatesChicagoUniversity of Chicago Press 2007CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Borjas, George J.The Labor Demand Curve Is Downward Sloping: Reexamining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor MarketQuarterly Journal of Economics 118 2003 1335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Borjas, George J. 2006
Reed, DeborahImmigration and Males’ Earnings Inequality in the Regions of the United StatesDemography 38 2001 363CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Toussaint-Comeau, MaudeThe Occupational Assimilation of Hispanic Immigrants in the U.S.: Evidence from Panel DataInternational Migration Review 40 2006 508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nguyenn, AnhHailenn, GetinetTaylor, JimEthnic and Gender Differences in Intergenerational Mobility: A Study of 26-Year-Olds in the USAScottish Journal of Political Economy 52 2005 554Google Scholar
Kahn, Joan RAn American Dream Unfulfilled: The Limited Mobility of Mexican AmericansSocial Science Quarterly 83 2002 1003Google Scholar
Feliciano, CynthiaEducational Selectivity in U.S. Immigration: How Do Immigrants Compare to Those Left Behind?Demography 42 2005 131CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats