Reaping What You Sew: Immigration, Youth, and Reactive Ethnicity
Applied Developmental Science, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2008
6 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2011 Last revised: 18 Jul 2011
Date Written: 2008
The immigrant-stock population of the United States, the largest ever, is a youthful one - and today’s U.S.-born second generation, with a median age of 12, is poised to explode into adulthood in the coming 10 to 20 years. They are “coming of age” in an aging society undergoing profound social and economic transformations, all of which will have, inevitably, political ramifications. A great deal of how tomorrow’s social contract between natives and newcomers is worked out, and how the commitment to democratic values of equity and inclusion is met, will hinge on the mode of political incorporation and civic engagement of newcomer youth today. In widely varying contexts of social inequality, the way young newcomers come to define themselves is significant, revealing much about their social attachments (and detachments) as well as how and where they perceive themselves to “fit” in the society of which they are its newest members. Self-identities and ethnic loyalties can often influence long-term patterns of behavior and outlook as well as intergroup relations, with potential long-term political implications. And the decisive turning point for change in ethnic and national self-identities can be expected to take place in the second, not in the first generation. As they react to their contexts of reception and learn how they are viewed and treated within them, newcomer youths form and inform not only their own identities but also their attitudes toward the society that receives them. If there is a moral to this story of reception and belonging, it echoes an ancient admonition: that societies, too, reap what they sow.
Keywords: Immigration, Youth, Identity, Reactive Ethnicity, Civic Engagement, Intergroup Relations
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