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

Some children of immigrants, hit by the economy, fall back on the tough jobs their parents held

There was an intriguing story in Sunday's Los Angeles Times on how the economic crisis is driving some adult children of Latin American immigrants to the same kinds of low-wage jobs their parents held as new immigrants, including farm work.

The story revolves around how these young people, some with degrees, are hitting an economic ceiling. In that sense, young Latinos are not alone, with college graduates of every ethnic background having trouble finding work and living with their parents.

The interesting part is how the family background (and family work ethic) seems to shape some of their choices. One young man interviewed was Geremias Romero, the U.S.-born son of immigrants from El Salvador who attended art school and has worked as a substitute teacher but, unable to find another job, is now harvesting cantaloupes on a farm:

"I'd rather keep myself working than get in trouble," he said, wiping his hands on his ripped jeans, stained with grass. "My dad started from nothing. He worked hard, so I don't mind working hard too."

Many young Americans are finding themselves worse off than their parents were at their age, without jobs or working below their skill and education levels. The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds is 17.4%, up from 10.6% in 2006.

The situation is even tougher for children of immigrants, such as Romero. Their parents paved the way by working tough jobs so their children could get an education and secure their place in the middle class. Now, with middle-class jobs disappearing, many children of immigrants are settling for the jobs their parents did, even if they are better educated.

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