Special to UM News
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 22, 2017)— A unique effort by UM Research Professor Alejandro Portes to produce the first reliable and representative study of the condition and future prospects of second-generation immigrants in Spain—where almost 13 percent of the country’s population is foreign-born—was the subject of last week’s colloquium at the Cuban Heritage Collection of the Otto G. Richter Library.
Written by Portes and two co-authors, ‘’Spanish Legacies: The Coming of Age of the Second Generation’’ explores how the children of immigrants—the second generation—are coping with the challenges of adapting to Spanish society, comparing their experiences with those of their peers in the United States. For the book, Portes, Rosa Aparicio, and William Haller used a groundbreaking data set based on both survey and ethnographic material collected from a sample of almost 7,000 second-generation students who were interviewed in Madrid and Barcelona in 2008 and then followed and re-interviewed four years later.
“Very seldom does one have the opportunity to work with such a rich set of data,” said moderator Dr. Felicia Marie Knaul, director of the University of Miami Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas, which co-hosted the event with the Department of Sociology in the College or Arts and Sciences, and the Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami Libraries.
Introduced by Dean of Libraries Charles D. Eckman, President Julio Frenk lauded lauded Portes, who holds appointments in sociology and law at UM and is professor emeritus of Princeton University, for his life’s work: “We are privileged to have Alejandro Portes as our leading scholar on immigration. Having this kind of scholarship helps elevate the social discussion on an issue of growing policy importance.”
Also participating in the panel discussion were Jennifer Lee, chancellor’s fellow and professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine; and UM’s George Wilson, professor of sociology and David Abraham, professor of law.
“Thank you for both reviving and elevating the scholarship on immigrant and second-generation assimilation with Spanish Legacies,” Lee told Portes.
During his commentary, Portes highlighted the size and complexity of the data set, adding a touch of humor: “It is impossible to lie without statistics,” he said.
The longitudinal study, which was complemented by qualitative interviews, enabled a better examination of existing theories and hypotheses of immigrant adaptation, providing not only a solid base for comparative studies elsewhere, but also inspiration for future policies.
As Abraham noted, “The book makes a compelling case for conducting cross-national research on immigration.”