This article uses census microdata to address key issues in the Mexican immigration debate. First, we find striking parallels in the experiences of older and newer immigrant groups with substantial progress among second- and subsequent-generation immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and Mexican Americans. Second, we contradict a view of immigrant history that contends that early-twentieth-century immigrants from southern and eastern Europe found well-paying jobs in manufacturing that facilitated their ascent into the middle class. Both first and second generations remained predominantly working class until after World War II. Third, the erosion of the institutions that advanced earlier immigrant generations is harming the prospects of Mexican Americans. Fourth, the mobility experience of earlier immigrants and of Mexicans and Mexican Americans differed by gender, with a gender gap opening among Mexican Americans as women pioneered the path to white-collar and professional work. Fifth, public-sector and publicly funded employment has proved crucial to upward mobility, especially among women. The reliance on public employment, as contrasted to entrepreneurship, has been one factor setting the Mexican and African American experience apart from the economic history of most southern and eastern European groups as well as from the experiences of some other immigrant groups today.


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pp. 157-189
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