Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

When children of immigrants pitch in, what are the expectations?

Photo by CarbonNYC/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Several recent posts have addressed immigrants and wealth: how they amass it, how they keep it (or don't), and how they pass it along to future generations. And importantly, as tends to happen in immigrant families, how future generations give it back.

Last week, I highlighted a couple of studies that addressed the financial side of filial duty in immigrant families, that which prompts 1.5 and second-generation children of immigrants to pitch in when parents or other relatives are faced with major or ongoing expenses, whether it be buying a first home or medical bills.

The post generated some interesting comments, among them this one from Carla Pineda:

I've always wondered, while giving back to my parents is no burden whatsoever, how far down the family tree will I go to help out all the relatives who my parents have helped?

As the U.S. residents with "better lives" than their relatives back in their respective countries, family often has turned to them for financial assistance. When the inevitable happens one day, I'm not sure if I will be able to take on that responsibility in their absence.

Pineda poses a good question, one I'd like to put to other readers. If you're the child of immigrants, what has your experience been?

As for me, I've helped with the costs of sponsoring some relatives and helped cover initial expenses after they arrived. This is in addition to helping out immediate family with large expenses, like repairs to my parents' home, for example.

Dear readers, please share: What are the expectations within your family? Does the culture you grew up in play a role in your pitching in? How much of this is determined by your own personal beliefs?

A little background from the reports we've cited so far might help get this conversation started.

1) A USC researcher's 2009 study of Los Angeles' Mexican middle class gave this explanation as to why the children of these particular immigrants helped support family members financially:

All of the respondents who grew up in low-income neighborhoods underscored how much their parents had sacrificed in order to migrate to the United States, and they also described the back-breaking, low-wage and low-status jobs their parents took upon their arrival to their new host country.

Now that they have achieved economic success, they feel that it is their turn to give back to the less affluent, a behavior they feel sets them apart from middle-class whites, whom they view as individualistic.

2) A 2006 report from a UCLA researcher dissected family obligation among the children of immigrants from Latin America, China and the Philippines. Not only did these youths feel similarly about pitching in financially to help support immigrant relatives once reaching early adulthood, but it made them feel good:
In the studies in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles that were described earlier, it has been consistently found that those with a greater sense of obligation to the family reported more positive psychological well-being and self-esteem.

In addition, there was no evidence that family assistance by itself resulted in increased stress and anxiety for those from immigrant families.

Your anecdotes and opinions are welcome below.