The Distal Role of Adolescents’ Awareness of and Perceived Discrimination on Young Adults’ Socioeconomic Attainment among Mexican-Origin Immigrant Families

Abstract

Cultural-ecological frameworks posit that there are harmful effects of social stratification on developmental outcomes. In particular, awareness of aspects of social stratification in society and interpersonal experiences of discrimination, more generally and within specific contexts, may differentially influence outcomes across life stages; yet, few studies have examined the distal effects during adolescence on early adult developmental outcomes. The current study fills this gap by examining distal mechanisms linking adolescents’ (Time 1: ages 13–15) awareness of and perceived general and school discrimination to young adults’ (Time 3: ages 23–25) socioeconomic attainment (i.e., educational attainment, occupational prestige, earned income) through adolescents’ (Time 2: ages 16–18) academic adjustment (i.e., grades and educational expectations). The study also examined variation by adaptive culture (i.e., English and Spanish language use behavior, familism values) and youth gender. Data are from the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (N = 755 Mexican-origin adolescents and their foreign-born parents; 51.5% male adolescents; Time 1 M age = 14.20 years). The results revealed that adolescent’s awareness of societal discrimination (Time 1) related to adolescents’ higher grades (Time 2), which, in turn, related to higher educational attainment and occupational prestige in early adulthood (Time 3). For young women, but not men, sources of perceived discrimination within the school context during adolescence related to lower educational attainment. Additional variation by adaptive culture and gender was also found. Implications discussed are related to positive development among Mexican-origin youth in immigrant families.

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    Here the term Latino refers to people of Latin American origin, cultural or ethnic identity in the United States.

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Acknowledgements

The data come for the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS; 1991−2006; Portes and Rumbaut 19912006). The funders of the original study included the Russell Sage Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. The current study involved a retrospective/secondary analysis of data from the original CILS study. Portions of this manuscript were presented at the National Council for Family Relations Annual Meetings (November 2016 [Austin, TX], 2018 [San Diego, CA]).

Authors’ Contributions

L.A.W. conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed statistical analysis and interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript; P.G.A. participated in the study design and coordination, interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript; M.Y.D. participated in the interpretation of the data and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The dataset analyzed during the current study are available in the Inter-University consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) repository, https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/ICPSR/studies/20520 (Portes and Rumbaut 19912006).

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Correspondence to Lorey A. Wheeler.

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The original study had appropriate Internal Review Board approval. The study was performed in accordance with ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki. The current study did not require Internal Review Board approval per U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines (https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/decision-charts/index.html); the data were not identifiable.

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Wheeler, L.A., Arora, P.G. & Delgado, M.Y. The Distal Role of Adolescents’ Awareness of and Perceived Discrimination on Young Adults’ Socioeconomic Attainment among Mexican-Origin Immigrant Families. J Youth Adolescence (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-020-01276-0

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Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Culture
  • Discrimination
  • Mexican-origin immigrant families
  • Socioeconomic attainment
  • Early adulthood