This article first sketches a contemporary portrait of the immigrant first and second generations of the United States, examining national-level census data to specify differences by ethnicity, gender and generation in three variables shaping socio-economic trajectories in early adulthood: educational attainment, incarceration, and childbearing. An analysis of the latest results from the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study [CILS] in California is then presented, focusing on patterns and predictors of those same three variables among a sample of young adults in their mid twenties whose parents emigrated from Mexico, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and other countries of origin. As post-secondary educational attainment has become critical to social mobility for young adults, incarceration (for men) and early childbearing (for women) have emerged as turning points that can derail life course trajectories by disrupting educational and occupational opportunities to develop human capital and move into the economic mainstream, setting in motion processes of cumulating disadvantage.
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