Latino immigrant youth are particularly at risk of dropping out of school (Callahan, 2013; Rumberger, 2000, 2011; Swanson, 2009). Historically, it has been assumed that immigrants to the United States will experience increased levels of economic, social and educational success with longer exposure to American culture and educational systems (Alba, Kasintz, & Waters, 2007; Portes & Zhou, 1993; Portes & Fernandez-Kelly, 2008), but segmented assimilation theory posits that today’s immigrant youth can no longer expect this upward trajectory. Growing empirical evidence suggesting Latino immigrant youth may have unique risk and protective factors as well as experience individual, family and neighborhood factors differently than do European- and African-American youth (Burdick-Will, Ludwig, Raudenbush, Sampson, Sanbonmatsu, & Sharkey, 2012; Santiago et al., 2014; Van Ham, Manley, Bailey, Simpson, & Maclennan, 2012) such as English-language fluency (Callahan, 2013), generational status (Fischer, 2010; Perreira et al., 2006; Portes & Hao, 2004; Portes & Rumbaut, 2001) and family socioeconomic status (Lutz, 2007; Perreira, Harris, & Lee, 2006).
The primary aim of the study is to identify the role of contextual predictors of school dropout in predicting high school dropout rates among Latino immigrant youth, with particular attention to the youth’s generational status. Using a longitudinal dataset, Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey (L.A. FANS), that oversampled low-income Latino immigrant families with children in poor neighborhood settings (Sastry, Ghosh-Dastidar, Adams, & Pebley, 2005), this study was designed to examine the impact of generational status while controlling for individual, family, and neighborhood characteristics that are often identified in the literature as influencing youth dropout status. Findings suggest that the influence of generational status on dropping out of high school is attenuated by other individual characteristics and family-level variables. Language fluency and academic achievement test scores emerged as significant predictors of dropping out of school even when controlling for family and neighborhood characteristics. Practice and policy implications as well as reflections on segmented assimilation theory are discussed in the Conclusion chapter.