Second-generation Latinas are enrolling in college at the same rate as third-generation non-Hispanic white women, but they are not completing their education at a comparable rate, according to a new study of immigrant-origin young adults released Tuesday by the Migration Policy Institute.

Latinas have a 46 percent college enrollment rate, roughly the same as non-Latina white women, but when it comes to obtaining a degree, Latinas lag behind by 18 percent. Slightly more than 50 percent of non-Latina white women obtain their degree, compared with Latinas at 33 percent, according to the study.

“Second-generation Hispanics are closing the gap in terms of access to higher education, but there remain large disparities in completing college, largely because of family, work and economic reasons,” said MPI Senior Vice President Michael Fix, a co-author of the study.

“This is particularly significant because our research shows that wages rise with every level of education. Second-generation Hispanic women with at least a bachelor’s degree earn on average $10 more per hour than those with a high school degree.”

Second-generation Latinos enrolled in college at a rate of 37 percent, compared with non-Latino white men, who have a rate of 40 percent. Third-generation Latino men, however, enrolled at rate of 35 percent.

The report’s executive summary warned: “Absent a greater understanding of the unique characteristics of this population, and how post-secondary education and workforce development and language training programs could better meet their needs, their futures will remain up for grabs.”

This is particularly significant because our research shows that wages rise with every level of education. Second-generation Hispanic women with at least a bachelor’s degree earn on average $10 more per hour than those with a high school degree.

- Michael Fix, author of "Up For Grabs: The Gains and Prospects of First- and Second-Generation Young Adults."

The study, titled “Up for Grabs: The Gains and Prospects of First- and Second-Generation Young Adults," set out to paint a portrait of the more than 11 million “immigrant-origin” adults between the ages of 16 and 26. Such youth account for half the growth of the young adult population in the United States between 1995 and 2010, according to the study.

As such, the authors say, “Their trajectory in the classroom and on the job takes on new prominence as they assume a greater role in a U.S. workforce that continues to age.”

Hispanics are 58 percent of the country’s 4.8 million first-generation young adults – defined in the report as people between the ages of 16 and 26. And Hispanics accounted for 53 percent of the 6.5 million second-generation Americans, MPI said.

Other highlights of the report include:

-Second-generation Americans now outnumber their first-generation counterparts. The study attributes the change, which occurred in recent years, to a decline in immigration to the United States caused in great part by the recession. By 2010, the second-generation group was 36 percent larger than the first generation.

-Roughly 2.2 million foreign-born youth are bilingual, meaning they reported speaking English “very well” in addition to speaking a second language.

-First- and second-generation Americans who are not Latinos have higher educational attainment than their Latino peers, as well as third-generation Hispanics and African-Americans. The report says: “These results have been driven in part by the strong performance of first-and second-generation Asian youth.”

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