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El Sueño Americano? The Generational Progress of Mexican Americans Prior to World War II

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2020

Edward Kosack
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Williams College of Business, Xavier University, ML 1212, 3800 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45207. E-mail: kosacke@xavier.edu.
Zachary Ward
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Hankamer School of Business, Baylor University, One Bear Place 98001, Waco, TX 76798. E-mail: Zach.A.Ward@gmail.com.

Abstract

We present new estimates of the outcomes of first-generation Mexicans and their descendants between 1880 and 1940. We find zero convergence of the economic gap between Mexicans and non-Mexican whites across three generations. The great-grandchildren of immigrants also had fewer years of education. Slow convergence is not simply due to an inheritance of poverty; rather, Mexican Americans had worse outcomes conditional on the father’s economic status. However, the gap between third-generation Mexican Americans and non-Mexican whites is about half the size today as it was in 1940, suggesting that barriers to Mexican American progress have significantly decreased over time.

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Article
Copyright
© The Economic History Association 2020

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Footnotes

Part of this paper was previously circulated under “The Uneven Advance of Mexican Americans Prior to World War II.” Thanks to Peter Catron and Marianne Wanamaker for providing detailed feedback. We thank audiences at the University of Texas, Xavier University, the 2017 NBER DAE Summer Institute, the 2017 Asian and Australasian Society of Labour Economists Conference, and the 2018 ASSA. Thanks to Lee Alston who helped us gain access to the full-count census information and to Marianne Wanamaker who helped us with the Army General Classification Test data.

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