Racial Lessons: Parental Narratives and Secondary Schooling Experiences Among Second- and Third-Generation Mexican Americans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Research on Mexican American educational incorporation has consistently shown educational stagnation between the second and third generations. Whether educational stagnation is attributable to generational differences in parental narratives that affect the academic motivation between members of the second and third generation, or negative school conditions that lead to their low educational attainment regardless of generational status, remains in question. Utilizing 41 interviews, I examine how the parental narratives and high school experiences of Mexican Americans differ by generational status, that is, for the second and third generation. My findings demonstrate that both second- and third-generation participants received encouraging parental messages to pursue higher education, regardless of parents’ nativity. Consequently, generational differences in parental narratives inadequately account for educational stagnation among Mexican Americans. Furthermore, my findings substantiate the role of educator messages in shaping Mexican Americans’ educational trajectories. I find no generational differences in how Mexican Americans perceived and responded to the racialized treatment in high school, whether they attended a diverse or majority-Latino institution. Specifically, the racialized content of educator messages directed toward Mexican Americans negatively affected their academic engagement and whether they enrolled in college-preparatory classes. In all, I argue that educator messages are equally or more important than parental narratives in shaping Mexican American educational incorporation. My findings support a longer line of research calling attention to the importance of educators and their significant influence over students’ educational trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-72
Number of pages13
JournalRace and Social Problems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Education
  • Mexican Americans
  • Parental narratives
  • Racialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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