Min Chung Book Cover Younger Generation

Younger-Generation Korean Experiences in the United States is an edited anthology that compares two different cohorts of Korean Americans in the formation of ethnic and racial identities using thirteen personal essays written by 1.5-generation and second-generation Korean Americans. The first cohort grew up in the 1960s and early 1970s while the second cohort grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s. Each of the essays explores four influential factors of ethnic identity formation: (1) retention of ethnic culture versus adaptation into mainstream American culture, (2) participation in ethnic social networks, (3) connections/links to the mother country or lack thereof, and (4) experiences with racial prejudice and discrimination. The first three factors pertain to internal factors while the last one is an external factor.

The great increase in the Korean population in the United States, the accompanying increase in ethnic and social service organizations, and South Korea’s emergence as an economic and cultural power contributed to the later cohort’s greater retention of their cultural heritage compared to the earlier cohort. The substantial decrease in racism against Asian Americans also contributed to the second cohort’s acceptance of Korean-American ethnic identity more comfortably than the first cohort.

Although there is a great deal of academic literature on ethnic identity and the “new second-generation” children of post-1965 immigrants to the U.S., there are very few books that use personal narratives as the primary mechanism to explore these sociological topics. Furthermore, this book makes a particularly significant contribution to studies of 1.5- and second-generation ethnic identity formation since it contains essays by two different cohorts of Korean Americans, all of whom addressed similar points of comparison. This book will be useful and interesting to both scholars and lay readers, particularly to U.S.-born children of immigrants.

This study examines whether there is an earnings premium for fluent bilingualism among 1.5-generation and U.S.-born Korean Americans in the labor market. The data come from the 2009-2011 American Community Surveys, and the sample is restricted to wage and salary workers. Logged annual wage and salary income was regressed on two dummy variables for bilingual competenceā€”bilingual with fluent English proficiency and bilingual with limited English proficiency (English monolingual as reference category), controlling for indicators of human capital and the language-use environment. Findings show greater economic returns to fluent bilingualism among 1.5-generation Korean women and U.S.-born Korean men, but there is no convincing evidence of a wage premium for fluent bilingualism among U.S.-born Korean women. Surprisingly, there is evidence of wage penalties for fluent bilingualism among 1.5-generation Korean men in certain geographic areas and occupations. These mixed findings are consistent with the recent discussion of bilingualism as both human capital and ethnicity.

Key Words: Bilingualism, Earnings, Korean American, Generation, Gender 

*This paper was originally presented at the Fourth Annual Conference of the Research Center for Korean Community at Queens College, which was held at Queens College on April 5-7, 2013. This paper was also published in Development and Society, Volume 42, Number One, June 2013. We would like to thank Development and Society for allowing us to repost this article.

 

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