Open Access
Inkpen, Christopher Scott
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 27, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Dr. R.S. Oropesa, Dissertation Advisor
  • Dr. Kevin Thomas, Committee Chair
  • Dr. Nancy Landale, Committee Member
  • Dr. R.S. Oropesa, Committee Member
  • Dr. Burt Monroe, Outside Member
  • Assimilation
  • Immigration
  • College Enrollment
  • College Graduation
  • Downward Assimilation
  • High School Dropout
  • Adolescent Childbirth
  • Arrest & Incarceration
This dissertation examines upward or downward assimilation by ethno-generation, a classification that considers a respondent’s race or ethnicity as well as their generational status. In particular, I consider ethno-generational differences in college enrollment and completion in addition to the disruptive “turning point” events of high school dropout, early childbirth, arrest, and incarceration. This study focuses on distinctions between first and second-generation Mexicans and non-Hispanic whites and blacks. In addition, these analyses contrast first and second-generation Mexicans to third-generation Mexicans. This investigation also includes generational measures for Hispanics of “other” origin. This study analyzes these outcomes while applying tests for a number of theories of assimilation. I consider straight-line assimilation theory, neo-assimilation theory, segmented assimilation theory, and second-generation immigrant optimism theory as potential theoretical frameworks that explain postsecondary success and disruptive life course events. This analysis employs the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, a nationally representative panel study that follows children aged 12-17 in 1997 throughout life documenting life course events and their experiences in school and the labor market. In addition to ethno-generational designations, I include measures for individual and family characteristics as well as time-varying life course measures. Chapter 3 examines two- and four-year college entrance to assess how Mexican enrollment rates compare to those of non-Hispanic white and black students. Although second-generation Mexicans have an edge in enrolling in two-year colleges, both first and second-generation Mexicans lag behind non-Hispanic whites in four-year college enrollment. This provides support for segmented assimilation, as Mexicans display a disadvantage in enrollment even after controlling for personal and family characteristics. Chapter 4 explores ethno-generational differences in the likelihood and timing of graduation from both two-and four-year colleges. This study finds that initial ethno-generational variation is explained by individual and family-level attributes, which supports neo-assimilation theory. Finally, chapter 5 investigates ethno-generational differences in experiencing disruptive events such as high school dropout, adolescent childbirth, arrest, and incarceration. This analysis suggests that gaps in high school dropout and early childbirth are explained primarily by varying levels of family capital and individual characteristics, supporting neo-assimilation theory. However, first-generation Mexicans are substantially less likely than non-Hispanic whites, blacks, and third-generation Mexicans to be arrested, while second-generation Mexicans show few significant differences in arrest rate. This presents evidence of downward assimilation for Mexicans and supports segmented assimilation theory. In sum, these analyses indicate that there is considerable variation by ethno-generation in the transition from high school to college enrollment and graduation. Furthermore, this dissertation finds that both segmented and neo-assimilation theories explain important ethno-generational inequality in the steps of this transition.