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Second-generation Americans, age, and the labor force

October 06, 2006

One of the major differences between second-generation Americans and those in the third-and-higher generation is the noticeably smaller proportion of the second generation who are aged 25 to 54 years.

Percent distribution of the civilian noninstitutional population by age, second- and third-and-higher-generation nativity, March 2005
[Chart data—TXT]

This is an age group for which labor force participation tends to be relatively high and unemployment relatively low.

Forty percent of the second generation is in this broad age group, compared with 55 percent of the third-and-higher generation. In contrast, the proportion of persons in the second-generation who are 65 years and older (27.5 percent) is nearly double that of their third-and-higher generation counterparts. Persons 65 and older are less likely than younger people to be labor force participants.

The difference in the age distributions between the second generation and the third generation is at least partly a result of changes in immigration laws that took place in the early 20th century when the flow of immigrants into the United States was sharply restricted. Because the wave of immigrants that entered the country prior to 1924 was larger than the wave entering after 1924, the group of offspring of the pre-1924 wave was also a large group and one that is now relatively old.

Second-generation Americans are defined as native-born Americans who have either one parent or both parents who are foreign born. Americans of the third and higher generations are native-born Americans whose parents are both native born.

These data are from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey. Find out more in "Labor force characteristics of second-generation Americans," by Abraham Mosisa, Monthly Labor Review, September 2006.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Second-generation Americans, age, and the labor force at (visited June 20, 2024).

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