American Sociological Association

Inheriting the City Award Statement

Inheriting the City Award Statement

Inheriting the City: The Children of Immigrants Come of Age: New York: Russell Sage & Harvard University Press, a jointly co-authored work by Philip Kasinitz, John H. Mollenkopf, Mary C. Waters, and Jennifer Holdaway, is the winner of the 2010 American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Book Award.Inheriting the City describes the results of a decade-long study, funded by the National Institute for the Study of Child Health and Development, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the UJA-Federation of Greater New York, and the MacArthur Foundation.The authors conducted 3,415 telephone interviews and 330 open-ended follow-up interviews of five immigrant-origin young adults and three native-born comparison groups, aged 18-32.They compare the children of Dominican, West Indian, South American, Chinese, and Russian-Jewish immigrants with native-born black, white, and Latino New Yorkers in order to determine both the costs and benefits of immigrant status.In a crisply written style that combines a description of survey data results with compelling visual presentations of data and excerpts from their in-depth interviews, Inheriting the City is an important contribution to scholarship on the life chances and trajectory of recent immigrants in America, a book that the selection committee felt was a seminal contribution to the literature on the immigrant experience.Inheriting the Children also makes an important contribution to public sociology because it provides an accessible answer to many of the questions currently being hotly debated in the public sphere; specifically, How do immigrants from a variety of diverse countries-of-origin compare to their native-born counterparts in terms of their educational aspirations and achievements, labor market participation, family formation, assimilation, and civic and political engagement?

The major conclusion of Inheriting the City is that overall, the children of immigrants are doing better than their parents; they are overwhelmingly fluent in English, have higher high school and college graduation rates, and they are less occupationally segregated than their parents.Compared with their native-born peers, second and 1.5 generation New Yorkers are more likely to grow up with two parents, to continue living with their parents into adulthood, to have lower arrest rates, to have higher educational attainment, and higher incomes than the native-born comparison groups.Second-generation immigrant’s deployment of multi-generational households and lower rates of single-headed households combined with their lower probability of living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty contributed to their advantageous socio-economic trajectories, relative to native-born comparison groups.

Although all second and 1.5 generation immigrants were doing better than native-born comparison groups and better than their parents, there was considerable variation between immigrants by ethnicity.Dominicans, the largest immigrant group in New York, had lower earnings and education and higher rates of marriage and cohabitation than other groups.Chinese and Russian Jewish immigrants had relatively higher earnings and occupational attainment, and are more likely than other second generation immigrants to postpone marriage and having children.Of the immigrant second and 1.5-generation groups, West Indians were more likely to vote and to be engaged in civic life, particularly in comparison with Chinese and Russian immigrants who were least likely to report voting or other forms of civic engagement.The children of immigrants report experiencing prejudice and discrimination, and as with African Americans, West Indians are more likely than other immigrants to report having faced discrimination.The authors conclude with a consideration of the support their results provide for a pattern of selective acculturation among recent immigrants, in contrast to the relative absence of acculturation in the European context.Almost all the young people studied spoke English well and maintained limited transnational ties in the form of remittances, compared with their parents.However, interview data bespoke a pride and interest in ethnic identity that lead the authors to conclude that, “cultural differences…seem demonstrably easier to both maintain and overcome than they did in the past” (Pp. 273).

Philip Kasnitz is Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and Hunter College.His previous books include Caribbean New York: Black Immigrants and the Politics of Race and Becoming New Yorkers: Ethnographies of the Second Generation, which he edited with Mollenkopf and Waters.John Mollenkopf is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center.He has written or edited thirteen books on urban politics, urban policy, immigration, and New York City.Mary C. Waters is the M. E. Zukerman Professor of Sociology at Harvard University.She is the author or editor of numerous books and articles on immigration and race and ethnic ethnicity, including Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and Immigrant Realities, which was the recipient of five scholarly awards, and most recently, the New Americans: A Guide to Immigration Since 1965.Jennifer Holdaway is Program Director for the Migration Program at the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), and also represents the SSRC on projects related to China.She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the CUNY Graduate Center, where she worked at the Center for Urban Research on the study for Inheriting the City.