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Second-Generation Immigrants? The “2.5 Generation” in the United States


  • *Direct correspondence to S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, Research Fellow, Public Policy Institute of California, 500 Washington Street, Suite 800, San Francisco, CA 94111 〈〉. A replication data set is available from the author. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, May 9–11, 2002, Atlanta, GA. I thank Thomas Espenshade, Cybelle Fox, Deborah Garvey, Helen Marrow, Wendy Roth, Jennifer Van Hook, and Natasha Warikoo for their comments and suggestions.


Objective. This article takes issue with the way that second-generation immigrants have been traditionally defined. In most studies, respondents are considered to be “second generation” if they are born in the United States and if at least one of their parents was born outside the United States. This article considers whether the experiences and outcomes of those with one U.S.-born parent and one foreign-born parent (the “2.5 generation”) are different from those with no U.S.-born parents (the “2.0 generation”) and those with two native-born parents (the “third generation”).

Methods. The article analyzes data from the March Current Population Survey (CPS) from 1999 to 2001.

Results. The evidence indicates that the 2.5 generation is a numerically significant population, and that it varies from other groups in age structure, racial identification, educational attainment, and income.

Conclusions. In studying the U.S.-born children of immigrants, scholars should avoid lumping together the 2.5 generation with those who have no native-born parents. The members of the 2.5 generation also should be treated as distinct from those born in the United States to two native-born parents.

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