Moving Ahead in Madrid: Aspirations and Expectations in the Spanish Second Generation


  • Data on which this study is based were collected by the Longitudinal Study of the Second Generation (ILSEG in its Spanish acronym) conducted by a consortium of Princeton University and the Pontifical University of Comillas with support from the Spencer Foundation (Grant #200800067). We thank David Capretta for his assistance in data analysis for this paper and anonymous reviewers of this journal for their detailed and useful comments on an earlier version.


This paper examines determinants of aspirations and expectations among children of immigrants based on a statistically representative sample of 3,375 second generation youths interviewed in 101 public and private secondary schools in metropolitan Madrid. We review the past literature on status attainment in general and aspirations and expectations, in particular, and draw from it a set of six hypotheses to guide the analysis. Most theoretical statements in this field have been developed on the basis of U.S. data; studies in other immigrant-receiving countries, especially outside the Anglophone world, have been scarce. The study thus provides an opportunity to test and refine existing hypotheses in a different national context. We present breakdowns of educational and occupational aspirations and expectations by gender, parental education and type of school attended. This is followed by multivariate regressions of all four dependent variables on these three plus other predictors suggested by the research literature. This analysis ends with structural equation models – recursive and non-recursive – that provide an integrated theoretical statement of the causal structure of ambition in the Spanish context. Implications of our findings for theory and policy are examined. Suggestions for future research in this field are discussed.