Submitted by Dyske on December 18, 2005

First Generation vs. Second Generation

When speaking of American people with respect to immigration, I had always assumed that “First Generation” meant the people who were born elsewhere and immigrated to this country. “Second Generation” in this sense means those who were born in the US from these “First Generation” parents.

But recently I started hearing people use them the other way around. They call those who were born in the US, “First Generation”, because they are the first generation to be born in this country. Which is correct?

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What does “first generation” imply? First generation of what? Isn’t it “first generation American”? If so, someone who immigrated and was naturalized to be an American citizen is the first to be the American in the family, in which case he/she is the “first generation.”

Also, if the first-born is first generation, in speaking of “generations” in an American family, what do you call the ones who immigrated here? Zero generation? After all, they are part of the “generations” in the family, aren’t they? Or, are you suggesting that they are not part of “generations” in the family tree at all?

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OK, just to establish the fact that it IS ambiguous, here is the definition of "first-generation" from Merriam-Webster Unabridged:

1 : born in the U.S. -- used of an American of immigrant parentage
2 : FOREIGN-BORN -- used of a naturalized American

So, it appears that both usages are correct. Here are some usage examples I found on the web:

"First-generation Americans always have lived between two worlds, one foot in the old place and the other in the United States."

"As first-generation Americans, many Filipino parents encourage their children to assimilate into American society."

"My family is loaded with first-generation Americans, and not one of them, ever, has said they are Italian first, American second."

"Asian Americans: Oral Histories of First Generation Americans from China, the Philippines, Japan, India, the Pacific Islands, Vietnam, and Cambodia."

"The Oklahoma Historical Society is seeking information on ‘first generation’ Americans and about the experiences of immigrants residing in Oklahoma. First generation refers to the first family members born in the U. S. A."

"Based on Chickerings model, differences in self-esteem and identity development among first-generation American (FGA) college students and non first-generation American (NFGA) students were examined."

"On the one hand, we, as first generation Americans, are trying to adopt a new culture, a new way of life, a new way of expression, and to fit in to the environment around us."

"Coming to China has made me realize how difficult it is for the first-generation to establish an identity."

"Most of the children of the foreign-born first generation Americans are born in the U.S."

"Immigrants to the United States are usually called first-generation Americans, regardless of their citizenship status, and their children second-generation Americans."

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This is a somewhat ridiculous issue as the above commnets 1-20 illustrate. My parents worked hard to immigrate here through Ellis Island, and even harder to attain US citizenship. They were the first generation in our family tree to become Americans. They were proud of it and rightly called themselves Americans of Italian descent.
My siblings and I became Americans as a result of our parents' efforts and were fortunate to be born here, but we were definitely the second generation in our lineage to become Americans. Calling ourselves first would be disrespectful to the sacrifices, achievement and vision of our parents.

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I always think that the first generation are those who were born in the US. The descendant of the immigrants.

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Hi Porsche,

"Far more often, the parents aren't naturalized". This is simply not true. You cannot live in this country unless you are a naturalized citizen. I would say 99% of the immigrants who had children here were naturalized Americans. Otherwise, they would have to leave this country. You could possibly stay here forever on a Green Card, but once you have children, it would not make sense to do so. So the very first people in your family to be American citizens are the ones who immigrated to this country. They are the first Americans in the family. Why shouldn't they be the "first generation"?

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The term is NOT ambiguous. First-generation refers to the people who leave the country in which they were born and move to a different country with intent on making a new life in the new country. If you are a non-immigrant in the US (tourist, student, etc.) they you are not any kind of generation. But if you are an immigrant (a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence) then you are first-generation regardless of whether you are undocumented, a legal permanent resident, or a naturalized citizen. Using the term "first generation" to describe the US-born children of immigrants is incorrect.

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1. Citizenship is a non-issue here. Those who come here are the first generation to live here. Their children are the second generation to live here.

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That is correct. First Generation American means the first generation born here. No ambiguity at all, for a change.

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The percentage of green card holders is a moot point, but that number does not surprise me. I would expect that. The majority of Green Card holders have no intension of becoming citizens because they prefer to be the citizens of their origins. They just want to work here. So, they would never be called “first generation” because they will never have “second generation” (their kids) in this country (and they are not American).

I would still argue that the vast majority of immigrants who have kids in this country are naturalized. I would say your relatives are rare cases. For immigrants (especially non-English-speaking) to have children in this country is a serious commitment. They have to be very serious about being part of this country. So, it would only make sense that they become naturalized citizens.

I can understand why British citizens would not bother becoming American citizens, since the whole family could potentially go back and forth. This would not be the case, if you were Chinese for instance. It would be very difficult for Chinese-American kids who were born in the US to go to China and live. The cultural difference is too great. So, the parents must take that into consideration when they have kids here. They have to assume that their kids would never go live in China, which means that you yourself would be committed to living here.

Also, there is a big difference between coming from a rich country like England and poorer countries China. Many Chinese people here, for instance, become citizens as soon as they can, so they can sponsor their relatives for Green Cards.

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dyske, I think you missed the point a bit. The parents aren't zero generation Americans. They're not natural born Americans at all. "generations" doesn't refer to everyone in the family tree. It refers to the number of family generations born in America. I see you added the word "naturalized". Far more often, the parents aren't naturalized, in which case they're not Americans at all.

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For Japanese Americans there are specific terms, taken from Japanese, to refer to the immigrants and their descendents: issei, nisei, sansei, yonsei, gosei, etc., referring respectively to the "first" generation, "second" generation, etc. In this case, and to all Japanese Americans, generally, the "first generation", or issei (equivalent terms) unambiguously refers to those who came to live here but were not born here.

I recognize that the term may not be unambiguous when used by people that have no knowledge of the issei, etc., terminology or when referring to other ethnic groups, but within any writings that I've seen about Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans that is targeted to those communities, "first generation" has always referred to the immigrants, not their children. I suspect the terminology is consistently used this way within the field of ethnic studies as a whole. Nevertheless, outside of that field, some ambiguity does appear to exist, but it seems to me to favor "first generation"="immigrant generation", and I suspect at some point in the future it will have swung sufficiently in that direction that it won't really be considered ambiguous anymore.

On a side note, with regard to Japanese Americans, there are two other terms of interest: kibei-nisei, which refers to children of the immigrant generation that were born in the U.S., but raised in Japan (and therefore speak Japanese as native speakers); and hapa, a term from Hawaii that refers to people that are half-Japanese American. According to dictionary.com, all of these terms, except for "hapa", are in American Heritage.

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Ok, say my grandfather was born in italy. His son, my father, was born there, too, but moves to the US and becomes a citizen. I am born in the US. Now, my grandmother dies and my grandfather marries a much younger woman who was born in the US, but they still live in Italy. Now, let's say my grandfather dies, my step-grandmother and I fall in love, and we get married and live in the US. What generation does that make me? And more importantly, am I now my own grandfather?

OK, still too easy? Say, I go up in a spaceship travelling faster than the speed of light. I come back to Earth, but I've gone back in time. I stop my father from coming to the US...

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I found the following definition from Wikipedia:

The term 1.5 generation or 1.5G refers to people who immigrate to a new country before their early teens. They earn the label the 1.5 generation because they bring with them characteristics from their home country but continue their socialization in the new country. Their identity is thus a combination of new and old culture and tradition.

Depending on the age of immigration, the community into which they settle, and other factors, 1.5 generation individuals will identify with their countries of origin to varying degrees. However their identification will be watered down by their experiences growing up in the new country. 1.5G individuals are often bilingual and better assimilated into the local culture and society than people who immigrated as adults.

....this implies that the 1st generation is the immigrant generation.

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99% you say? According to the US department of homeland security office of immigration statistics, the number of non-naturalized permanent residents (green card) in the US is almost twice as many as naturalized citizens. If you discount the large metropolitan areas, the number is more like 3 to 1. You can poke around at:

http://uscis.gov/graphics/shared/statistics/ind...

So I must stand behind my previous comment.

By the way, my mother-in-law has been living in the US on a green card since the 60's, raised a family, and has no intention of renouncing her UK citizenship or becoming an American citizen. She still pays income taxes, doesn't get to vote, but does avoid jury duty.

My grandparents on both sides emigrated to the US. None became citizens.

"First generation american" was not listed in my dictionary, but after having checked some more, I would also agree that there is ambiguity about the expression.

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It's a bit like the conundrum as to whether the "first floor" of a building is the ground floor or the first one above the ground floor. There are different cultures that reckon them differently. By the conventions of genetics, the "first generation" (F1) would be the first generation BORN within the realm of consideration -- new country, new hybrid, new breeding stable, what have you. This stems from the literal meaning of the verb "generate" which means "to produce". By this definition, immigrant parents would not be "first generation" because they were not "produced" within the realm of consideration (in this case, the U.S.).
There really isn't any compelling reason, though, for imposing biological conventions on social issues. The term remains inherently ambiguous.

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Suzanne, I'm afraid that the term IS ambiguous. From Webster's New World Dictionary, 2nd Ed. (just what I happen to have on hand at this moment):

First-Generation (adj.)
1 - designating a naturalized, foreign-born citizen of a country
2 - designating a native-born citizen of a country whose parents had immigrated into that country

If you had actually read the postings below you would have seen that Dykse has already posted this from a definitive source. I would think that would have ended the discussion.

So... how are you coming to the conclusion that the use of definition 2 is incorrect? Have you published your own internationally accepted dictionary that has superceded all others?

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As dyske pointed out, the term "first generation" is simply ambiguous; it's used both ways (to refer to immigrants and to refer to children of immigrants). I think the best way to avoid confusion is to refer to people as being "immigrants to America" (or "of the immigrant generation") or being "first generation American-born" (note that adding "American-born" disambiguates the phrase; it makes it clearly refer to the American-born *children* of immigrants).

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off course the immigrants are first amercans!

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Well, it does seem confusing for "Nth generation" to refer to two separate generations for each value of N. After all, the whole *point* of the phrase is to *distinguish* between different generations. That's why I recommended avoiding the phrase by itself in favor of something more explicit.

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The ambiguity comes from what word follows (or is implied to follow) the phrase "first generation." Clearest is "first generation U.S. citizen" which obviously means the first generation to include a U.S. citizen. So if my father immigrated from Japan to the U.S. but did not become an American citizen, and I was born in the U.S. (U.S. born children of immigrants are U.S. citizens), then I am the first generation U.S. citizen. However, if my father became a U.S. citizen (took the test, oath, met requirements, etc.), then he is the first generation U.S. citizen and I am the second generation U.S. citizen.

I have always understood the phrase "first generation" to imply "first generation U.S. citizen." However, I believe the Japanese immigrants (and probably many others) mean "first generation to relocate to the U.S." So, by that utilization, in the above example, my father would be the "first generation to relocate to the U.S." (or Issei) even if he didn't become a U.S. citizen.

I note that the phrase "first generation" is also used in other contexts. E.g. "first generation University of California" refers the first generation with a person who graduated from the University of California.

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I never doubted that "first generation" = "immigrant generation".

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Hey guys, the first generation immigrants are the people who were born abroad, and the second generation immigrants are their children who were born here. US Census definition.

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No one has discussed who is first generation if both parent and child immigrate at the same time.

Could they both be first generation?

Would the child still be second generation?

Or are the child's children the first generation?

(this is if the parent and child are both citizens)

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My parents were born elsewhere, I was born in the U.S., I consistently refer to myself as a first-generation American because I am the first generation to be born in America, even though both of my parents have had U.S. citizenship for decades. My parents don't consider this disrespectful on my part. If anything, they kind of like it, because it reinforces their original cultural persuasion. Mostly I don't think they care a whole lot. Point is, you can think of this issue from a cultural rather than institutional perspective. I.e., I would be the first generation in my family to have "an American head."

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"First generation" Americans are those who are the first generation of their family born in this country. "Second generation" are the children of the first generation.

For example, my great grandfather came to America from Greece. Therefore, my grandfather (who was born here) is a first generation American.

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"First-generation" alone means NEITHER people born in other countried and moved to the US NOR people born in the US of immigrant parents

"first-generation" means FIRST-GENERATION, it's an adjective that takes on no specific meaning on its own. period.

The term can be used in various context such as "first-generation American" "first-generation immigrant" "first-generation college goer" or even "first-generation of youth greatly impacted by the creation of the internet"

First-Generation AMERICAN means: People who were born in US, but their parents are immigrants.

First-Generation IMMIGRANT means: People who are living in a country other than the country they were born in.

Second-Generation IMMIGRANT: People who were born in the country they live in, but their parents are immigrants.

The kids of those second generation immigrants would therefore be called "third generation IMMIGRANT", and so on

No ambiguity at all

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I forgot to add, all of the dictionary definitions I have seen refer to "first generation" as "first generation U.S. citizen.

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Molly, check out dyske's posting below. According to the dictionary, both your grandfather and great-grandfather could be considered 1st generation. The expression is ambiguous.
Now, let's have some fun. Was the expression always ambiguous? If not, what was the original definition?:)

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Warren, we call people like you British (or British American if you prefer). The people who whipped the British and formed the United States were mostly British themselves. Oh, and while we're at it, if you were Native American, then we really should call you Asian American, since your ancestors would have come to the US from there, ten or twenty thousand years ago. As a matter of fact, all of us should really be called African Americans, since that's where we all started. As for what generation, I'm sure you can figure that out yourself.

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"The word generation comes from the Greek word genea which means birth.

Therefore, the first generation is the one that is born in the country."

Etymological fallacy
http://www.fallacyfiles.org/etymolog.html

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Regarding this thread I've always considered first generation to refer to the first generation residing as citizens in this country. There is no other logiocal definition. Now as to what to call ourselves based upon our origins, the only correct reference would be 'Star Children' since we all evolved from the dust of the Universe. Once we all realize that fact our perspectives of each other should be enhanced and we will all be better off sharing this world of ours.

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to "agreedw/above", I think you kinda missed the boat on this one. The original question starts with: "When speaking of American people with respect to immigration...", so yes, we are all discussing "first-generation" specifically regarding immigration. We are NOT discussing first-generation college-goers, or first-generation prototypes, or first-generation automobiles, or anything else first-generation. That's the topic, ok?

Next, clearly there are differing opinions on this, just read the comments above. I would think it's pretty clear that the term is ambiguous in the immigration context; even according to the dictionary, so I have to disagree with all of your definitions.

Last, your definitions of first/second/third-generation immigrant are, well, bizarre at best. Nobody says that. There's no such thing as a second or third-generation immigrant. If you're second or third-generation, then you're a natural-born citizen, not any kind of immigrant at all, duh.

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The word generation comes from the Greek word genea which means birth.

Therefore, the first generation is the one that is born in the country.

My gransparents were born in Greece, my parents are first generation Americans. I am a second generation American.

If I move to Italy and have a chile there it will be first generation Italian. I will still be second generation American and an immigrant in italy.

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Sorry Porsche, I have to disagree with your disagreement. :)

First of all, you're assuming that the two definitions have a logical "AND" relationship when related to an individual, and I'm arguing that they have a logical "OR" relationship when related to an individual. Specifically, I argue that both statements hold true when talking about different people, but both cannot hold true for the same person. Here is why...

First, second, third, etc. are ordinal numbers used to rank things. In a ranking system there can only be one first, one second, one third etc. Otherwise it would be a rating system and you shouldn't use ordinal numbers to describe ratings.

"First-generation" and "second-generation" are adjectives that modify a word (hence the hyphen). What is missing from much of the discussion in these comments is the word after the hyphen. You have to clarify what you're talking about when you use the modifiers first-generation and second-generation for the discussion to make sense. In my earlier post, I was only talking about first-generation and second-generation **citizens**.

Only one generation can be a "first-generation citizen" to a country. If somebody immigrates here and then become citizens, they are the first generation of citizens. If they never become citizens, then their children are the first generation of citizens. If they become citizens after there children are born, then they become first and their children become second. There is absolutely no ambiguity if we are talking about citizenship.

When we are talking about "first-generation immigrant", I would argue that the discussion is pointless. Generally there is only one generation of immigrants, so there is no need for a modifier. The immigrants children that are born in the country are not immigrants because they did not immigrate. For countries like the US, the children are citizens. Other countries might not grant citizenship to children just because they are not born in the country. I don't know what these people would be called, but they are definitely not "second-generation immigrants". There is probably a better word for these Non-Citizen Children of Immigrants (maybe NCCI's... or somebody should neologize a better one).

When we are talking about "first-generation American", I would argue that you have to look at citizenship to consider somebody American, so I would make the same argument as I did for first-generation citizen.

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My parents are both from England. My father became a citizen as quickly as possible. My mother did after her mother died in the old country.

My wife's parents are from China. Both parents became citizens as quickly as possible.

We are both first genegraiton Canadians! - at least that is what we call ourselves.

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I know the term is ambiguous now. I can rest.

Everyone, it's only a matter of preference. There is no use arguing. Before you reply to this read the dictionary definition above!

My friend was born in another country and immigrated to the U.S. when he was only a year old. If he were to have children, I could say that his children were first or second generation. I would just choose whichever sounds cooler.

What I'm trying to say is that it doesn't matter. We could be technical about it, but if we keep providing our evidence on why we think it should be this way, we'll never finish this discussion.

English is a pain....

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Wow, I can't believe this post is still active after more than a year, especially when the term is officially ambiguous. Here's another interesting ambiguity. Let's say it's Wednesday and I say we're going to do something next week. It's pretty clear that I mean sometime on or after the coming Sunday (or Monday, depending on your point of view). "This week" is the week we are in, "next week" is the following week. Now, what if I say "next WEEKEND"? Some people will interpret it to mean this coming weekend, and others will interpret it to mean the weekend after this coming weekend. I think the ambiguity stems from the fact that Wednesday isn't part of a weekend. Ifr you aren't in a current time period then it's unclear what is meant by the "next" time period. This coming weekend really isn't "this weekend" unless you are actually IN the weekend already (or is it?:)

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In the sociological literature on immigration, "first generation" are the immigrants themseves, who can become naturalized citizens. "Second generation" are the sons and daughters of immigrants. They have at least one immigrant parent.

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From the Oxford English Dictionary (with history of the term):

b. first- (or second-, etc.) generation a., designating a member of the first (or second, etc.) generation of a family, spec. of descendants of immigrant parents, esp. in the United States; also, designating a naturalized immigrant (or a child, etc., of a naturalized immigrant). Also transf. and fig.

1896 S. A. BARNETT Let. Sept. in H. Barnett Canon Barnett (1918) II. 119 There are the usual Americans. One ‘first-generation man’, as he calls himself..has made a great fortune. 1946 J. O'HARA in 55 Short Stories from New Yorker (1952) 199 Francis had his place at the bar, at the far corner, and it was his so long as he was present. First-generation Jimmy and second-generation Jimmy had seen to that. 1951 M. MCLUHAN Mech. Bride 67/1 First-generation immigrants who quickly made good. Ibid. 67/2 The father is just such a second-generation type. 1953 E. COXHEAD Midlanders vi. 153 Herself a second-generation college girl, she now under-valued the freedoms the pioneers had won. 1956 Nature 10 Mar. 489/2 Second-generation inbreds... Fourth-generation inbreds... F1 hybrids between third-generation inbreds. 1960 Guardian 29 July 4/4 Deriabin, born in 1921, was a second generation Communist. 1960 Ibid. 5 Nov. 3/6 A second-generation Kenyan whose father was one of the pioneer settlers in the White Highlands. 1962 Chem. Engin. Progress Oct. 44 (caption) First generation (left) and improved (right) void-free laminates of phenolic resin and graphite fabric. 1968 L. BLACK Outbreak ix. 86 The number of notifications [of smallpox] will rise sharply, as second and third generation cases emerge from the incubation period.

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In Finland children, born in Finland, of immigrant parents are also called immigrants (at least according to the Finnish national core curriculum.) Therefore here in Finland the term "first generation immigrant" is used as opposed to first generation Finnish. In this sense the first generation are those who moved country.

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My question is how is a generation figured out. If the father is an american, 4th generation, and the mother is from the Phillipines, they have a baby girl born in the USA, does the generation count come from the mother or the father. In other words, would the girl child be a 5th generation because of her father, or a first generation because of her mother. Thank you.

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please take a look at this US Census definition:

'First generation' refers to those who are foreign born; 'second generation' refers to those with at least one foreign-born parent; 'third-and-higher generation' includes those with two U.S. native parents. Note: Numbers in thousands. Universe is the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States, plus armed forces living off post or with their families on post. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2007.

available at:

http://www.census.gov/population/foreign/files/...

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Actually, Amazed, the fact that there is still a heated debate means that there IS NO consensus, which, um, is exactly what I said isn't it?? that the term is ambiguous!!

Furthermore, an ongoing debate in this forum doesn't mean that there isn't consensus in society. Just look it up in the dictionary. Even there, it says that it's ambiguous. The consensus is that there is no consensus! (How can something so simple become so complicated?)

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No one has discussed who is first generation if both parent and child immigrate at the same time.

Could they both be first generation?

Would the child still be second generation?

Or are the child's children the first generation?

(this is if the parent and child are both citizens)

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Elizabeth,

What happens if I marry an immigrant but she does not get naturalized? What if she does get naturalized? What affect is there on the status of the child if only one parent becomes naturalized? Does this change their status?

Also, I learned in sociology, that it takes three generations to become assimilated. Can you expand on this information? Also does that mean it is the fourth generation that becomes assimilated. And, what is the difference between assimilation and naturalization?

My wife, a soon to be U.S. citizen, tells me that there is a significant decrease in U.S. assimilation AND naturalization. People stop at the green card (permanent resident) and do not go further. This does two things. Decreases loyalty to the U.S. while reaping her benefits and increases disloyalty. What do you think?

Also, the term may be ambiguous, but it does appear to be the general rule with an exception here and there.

By the way, I am happy with your information you provided on December 4, 2006 at 2:19 am. I feel more American and patriotic knowing that I am a second generation immigrant because both of my parents were naturalized. Now I can listen to rock n roll in public. JK

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Wow, how stupid are people?

It's called context.

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Were not the Pilgrims who sailed from England First Generation Americans?

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Wow, it is amazing that this has been a topic with such controversy for years. If you are in doubt, just say, “First generation born here.” That would clear up any confusion. Now, on a practical note, the first generation born here should be distinguished from subsequent generations because we are usually raised with “old world” values/norms/social rules. Our parents, upon arriving at Ellis Island, didn’t flip a switch and morph into Americans. They raised us the way they were raised. Even second generations have more of the old world, but I guess that depends on the family ties of the first.

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so i'm pretty sure that first-generation americans /first-generation citizens are people whose parents were born in another country and they are the first person in their family to be born as a citizen of the country (i.e. of the United States). then first-generation immigrants would be the parents in this case, who are the first people to move to the new country (they live in the country now, but they were born elsewhere). for example, my parents are first-generation immigrants who were born in Kurdistan, and immigrated to the United States (and became naturalized citizens). i was born in the United States and thus i am a first-generation American.

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My parents were born in Turkey and immigrated to the USA in 1911. They are not first generation. My two brothers and I are since we were born in the States.

Would like to know if any of you have had problems as first generation Americans if you're parents only knew the "old country" way.

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I am vietnamese and came here with my parents when I was four years old. I've always considered myself to be of the immigrant generation and that my children would be first generation. I recently had this talk with 2 co-workers, one chinese and another korean. They both immigrated here like I did but consider themselves first generation and their childern second generation. I did a lookup on the web and was surprise to find out that both definitions seem to be correct. Anyways, from the above comments, this subject matter will always be AMBIGUOUS if used in this way. Kinda like the example above about Floor 1, etc. From now on, if somebody tells me that they are first generation, instead of correcting them, i would just find out if they immigrated here or not :-)

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Porsche--I doubt you will see this because this entire thread is nearly a year old, but I had to laugh out loud at your staement that the question being debated here was "answered categorically and incontrovertibly nearly 8 months ago"--inqrguably, if it is still being debated however long after the thread began, then it was NOT "answered categorically and incontrovertibly nearly 8 months ago"! Perhaps in your mind, but clearly not supported by consensus!

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Wow. I searched the internet for a definition of nth generation because a survey question asked me what generation I was. As I have read, the definition can apply to both foreign-born and native-born. This doesn't help me at all......

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Okay im going to say that i believe that my parents, (from china) are first generation because they are the first to settle in a foreign country. and I am the second generation. Though I was the first to be born here, I am the second to live here.
Thats what I think it means, and that's what I'm sticking with.
Dictionary says both usage of the definitions are correct, much majority of using "First generation" in sentences and examples, they use the same definition i use.

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Guys, Porches clarified the whole problem about one and a half years ago...
Anyway, let's say my father and my half sister -from my mom's side- both born in France, have a little girl over there and then move to the US. 15 years later my half brother -from my dad's side, of a previous marriage which wasn't with my mom- falls in love with my half sister kills our dad and have a baby with her. They then move to Puerto Rico to conceive their second baby to then move to Dominican Republic where my Half sister -who's a bit of a slut- gives birth to their hermaphrodite child. In the mean time my mom has gone out of jail and goes meet her daughter and grand children to fall in love with my half brother. They kill my half sister under the influence of mushroom and conceive a baby in a plan while flying over the us and crash in Canada. The fetus manages to stick into a humidified piece of fabric from my mom's seat and somehow end up in a river and gets eaten by a water snake
that will somehow give birth to my little brother/nephew in the French speaking part of Guyana... now is this baby First generation French? third generation African -never know-? Second generation American? Puerto Rican -no need of generation with Puerto Rican anyway they all more or less live here-? Third generation Dominican? A fucking bastard? 1st/ second generation Snakelander?

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I don't think the dictionary definition Porche listed above is ambiguous:

First-Generation:
1 - designating a naturalized, foreign-born citizen of a country
2 - designating a native-born citizen of a country whose parents had immigrated into that country

The key here is the word citizen. I was born in the US and my parents had not yet become citizens. I was a first generation American citizen. When my parents became citizens, they became the first generation of Americans and I became the second. My generational status changed when they became citizens.

The oldest generation to become a citizen of that country is a first generation citizen, whether through naturalization or birth.

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If you read all the above comments, and you read the dictionary, it appears to be correct and OK to refer to BOTH sets as first generation. Why does everyone have a problem calling both first-generation?

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Oh god, this is ridiculous.
First generation IMMIGRANT refers to the first generation in the family to immigrate.
(Well you would know this if you read any academic journals regarding immigration)
First generation AMERICAN refers to the generation first born in America.

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Sorry Javid, I have to disagree. Certainly your parents can now consider themselves 1st generation Americans according to definition 1. As their child, you can also consider yourself a 2nd generation American. But. you can also STILL consider yourself a 1st generation American according to definition 2. You are STILL a native-born citizen of a country (the US) whose parents have immigrated into that country. Your parents' citizenship is irrelevant. They immigrated to the United States. Immigrate simply means to come to a country to live, usually, permanently. Your parents weren't born in the US, right? Becoming citizens didn't somehow cause them to actually be born in the US, right? A naturalized citizen doesn't cease being an immigrant when they become a citizen. By definition, if you live somewhere and aren't native-born, then you are an immigrant. That's what the word means. So, you can certainly feel free to consider yourself a 1st or 2nd generation American, whichever you choose.

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My Father was born in Portugal.He became a natualized citizen. My mother was born in Fall River Massachusetts. Both my brother and sister were born in Portugal and they also are natualized citizens. I was born in Providence, Rhode Island. How do I explain to my brother and sister what generation they are?

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I finally hear something that sounds more logical than what any of the others have mentioned. I agree with what Nick (11/12/06) says...and this is how I am gathering thise:

My mother was born in Mexico and of all her 11 siblings were too. My mother was the first to have a child that was born in California (that would be me), so I am a 1st generation American.

I also was the first to have a child in California for my generation (my son SO), so he would then be the first of the 2nd generation American.

My cousin (of my generation) had a daughter (who would be of the 2nd generation) recently had a child here in California. Her child is now the first born of the 3rd generation...?

Wheh...WOW!!!

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It's been a while since I've checked in on the forum here and when I did recently, I was pretty shocked to see this thread still alive a kicking.

"Anonymous | Feb-17-08 10:56PM

crazy this thread started in dec 2005, n continued until 2008"

I say: let's see if we can make it to 2009!!

And this just shows how unwilling to compromise people can be, even over such silly issues. My sister and I were born in the US to foreign-born parents. That makes us first generation Americans. Period. In my family, that is how it works. That won't change, even if this thread goes on until 3008. You (the royal "you") and your family may take a completely different perspective on what it means to be an American (or any other nationality) and that's awesome. Quit whining.

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i am an immigration attorney and third-generation japanese american (i.e. grandparents immigrated, parents born here) and i find that many immigrants use the terms interchangeably and could care less about this distinction. for example, i have greek friends who loathe being called anything but "greeks living in the usa" despite having been born here in the usa and having never lived in greece. in contrast, i have other friends who bristle at being labled anything other than "american" and do not want that status qualified in any manner whatsoever.

in melting pots like new york, l.a., etc., the question, "what are you?" often begets a declaration of ethnicity followed by an explanation of one's family immigration history. so, my conclusion is that both are correct and it really comes down to a matter of preference.

*note that i did not use a hypen between japanese and american (another "issue" among ethnic groups in america)

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I meant the Webster dictionary definition. I just read your entry, Elizabeth.


Someone mentioned something interesting. He said that he was a Japanese American (without the hyphen). Does it mean something different with the hyphen?

What I mean to say is, is being an African-American different from being an African American?

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I just read the other billion definitions and I realize that I must be blind for not noticing them before. Gosh, I'm confused all over again, and I think the only solution for me is merely to use my preference.

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If anyone is still reading this, I'm working on a project producing content for first/second generation college grads who live in big cities--those born here whose parents were born overseas. I'm interesting in talking to anyone who falls into this category. Find my Facebook profile for Tara Haelle and message me. Thanks!

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i would like to clarify something from anonymous's post on january 2, about "hapa" referring to half japanese american. "hapa" means "half" in hawaiian, and in hawaii this word is often used in the context of "hapa haole" meaning "half foreigner/stranger" or "half white." historically, white people in hawaii were considered foreigners, while asians have been more integrated into hawaii's society. today in hawaii, hapa usually refers to someone half asian and half white, but i have heard the term used throughout much of the united states as a label celebrating all sorts of bi/multi-racial and bi/multi-ethnic makeups.

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The definition also varies upon field...in psychology, "first generation " implies the generation that immigrated to the U.S. and "second generation" refers to being born in the U.S. to parents who immigrated/emigrated from elsewhere. I've also heard the term 1.5 generation as CQ described above. The term is ambiguous, I'm sure you'd find that even if you asked those holding doctoral degrees.

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William Wang: Technically (according to the Census Bureau) your father and you are both "first generation," as strange as that seems (father and son of the same generation). Perhaps, you are "1.5 generation." Obviously there is much ambiguity here and some of the distinctions presented here get blown apart by such situations. For example, for my entire childhood my father was a "resident alien" (the official term at the time for a Green Card holder). Later when I was an adult he became a naturalized citizen. So I was first generation until my father was naturalized at which time I became second generation. Interesting. According to the my interpretation of the Census Bureau definition, I was always second generation. My father was not an American (so "no generation") until he was naturalized at which time he became first generation, so during my childhood there was no first generation.

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Obviously a confusing term but a long and at times amusing thread (particularly the time travel comment)...

As a "7th generation" Australian child growing up in Australia my dad would refer to some of my friends who were the children of Italian immigrants as "second generation"... given it was confusing way back then as a kid, I have been paying attention to the usage of this phrase for about 35 years :). And based on all these years of listening to the usage of this term I'd say 80% of the people who have used it used it this way (the same as the US census... immigrants are first generation, first born are second generation... so if we were to cast votes, maybe that would satisfy everyone? <grins> doubt it).

If the whole family, grandparents, parents and young kids move from their mother country... all bets are off :) But I would tend to think the foreign-born young kids would be 1st generation, and the first-born children would be "second generation" citizens of their new country. Thus cementing "second generation" as the first generation born in the new country. Just to make it completely lucid.

As for why some people don't want to be naturalized, there are many, many good reasons not to become a US citizen... such as the IRS. But ultimately I think a lot of people like to move around without giving up their cultural identity... and basically want to enjoy a life without borders, which really are artificial impediments to human exploration and freedom.

In the end it doesn't really matter, you are who you are and we are all children in the eyes of the universe.

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WOW! This is such an interesting read. I guess I'm confused now also. But, I have to agree with someone that said that applying 1st or 2nd generation sometimes splits siblings even though the siblings acculturation experience is the same. So having said that, here's mine. I was born in MX and moved here with my parents when I was 4. Both of my brothers were born here in the US. So they're 1st generation??? Now, I married a Pakistani man who moved here in his late teens. I'm wondering what my daughter would be considered...I've always thought of myself as 1.5...
Keep it going....

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_Americans_i...

I think these folks will always be the first generation, everyone
after are immigrants, unless they were born on this land or from parents who were born here.
Say you and your wife are going to have a bundle of joy soon and low and behold it pops out during a trip to let's say Japan.
This child will still be considered from the parent's homeland.

Yes, thinking about it now, someone a very long time ago,years ago, many,many moons ago should have worded alot of these things or issues or whatever better,
because there is not alot of reasons for arguement except possibly one at the root... Hate

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I used this thread as a reference in a rewrite of the Wikipedia article on "first-generation immigrant" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_generation_i...) after becoming curious about the term myself, and realizing that the original Wikipedia article completely ignored the ambiguity.

There's not much use chiming in, since this is an old thread there's simply no denying that there's ambiguity on the subject; we should all just be conscious to not use generation labeling with respect to immigrants at all.

I think j.b.'s comment was rather insightful, although I'll add the complicating caveat that many times, an American-born child to immigrants may very well use the term "first-generation" in reference to himself to exaggerate their ties to their parents' culture, for any of a myriad of reasons.

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First generation: one who immigrates after the age of 18
Generation 1.5: one who immigrates before the age of 18
Second generation: one who is born here

These definitions are provided by an immigrant friend of mine, verified by her FIRST GENERATION parents.

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look you guys....... you can consider yourself 1st american "born" generation but when speaking off americans in general is the immigrant that decided to never look back and make a live in america. they might not be the first to be born here but as law writes,the immigrant is and will always be 1st generation american. I'm a history teacher and let me just say that even if your not a born citizen they are still first generation. there generation counts it is because of them that you are here,there the first to live in america before you. but.......and yes, there is a but. to become officially first generation by title. the first generation must become a naturalize citizen of america. if it makes you that angry cause you wanted to be the first. then you oviesly don't respect your family. but angry or not they are the first generation americans. you are the first generation to be born here not the first to live here. its more complicated than that.you must go to the library and study more if you want to know why this is. of course if it makes you that angry that your mother and father are first. in that case your going to be very disappointed. you can advise and say all you wan.. but law is law and that is the law that was written in america by our founding fathers who's parents were immigrants of european decent. at least they use to have some respect for there upbringing.... bottom line is hit the library and become smatter and gain more knowledge before you put down a whole generation in public just because your felling selfish. it is what it is by law and by sense.so get over it

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crazy this thread started in dec 2005, n continued until 2008

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^ Oh, and not only that, but the Asian-American military brats born in Asia on a US military installation...they can move in and out of the states as well since rotations for living on a military base happen every 3-5 years. So the whole "coming to America" thing is just nuts. We were born in Asia, but moved to America when we were 3 years old (note when I'm giving these example, I mean for these rotations to apply to all, not just me since I stayed in Japan for several years before moving here to the states), then moved out a few years later...came back at 6 years old...then moved out at the age of 10...came back at 14 years old and hated how the American high school kids in the stateside were radically different from the American high school kids at the overseas US military bases...then came back to America again after our dads retired from the military and started life anew as a civilian now trying to find our way into this new life called "college" (or in the case of those that were stationed at the RAF bases..."uni").

I think I'd rather just go with being called a "1st generation military brat" since I and my brother are the first in our family to be brats.

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I stumbled upon this discussion thread as my sister and I came from different perspectives though we have the same parents! Our parents were born in Holland and came to the US after WWII. My sister, brother and I were born in the US when my parents were still Dutch citizens (my parents became naturalized US citizens in 1965, three years after I was born, the last of us 3 kids). I have always referred to myself as a first generation American. I found out just the other day that my sister considers herself a second generation American, so we of course had to Google the definition of "first generation" and to our delight, we are *both* right (simply look it up on Webster's dictionary.com)

Reading through the thread a bit (certainly not all 5 years worth), I liked the person who brought in the cultural context. That helps my case, as I am very much culturally a US person while my parents retained much of their Dutch upbringing but of course adopted US customs as well.

To add a bit of a curve ball to the topic, it happens that while the 3 of us kids were born on American soil (and therefore automatically US citizens) to legally Dutch parents, we were also considered Dutch citizens according to Dutch law. It was only me who then openly declared that Dutch citizenship, well after my parents naturalized and became US citizens. Therefore, I am both of US and Dutch citizenship, while my mom (and dad now deceased) were solely US citizens, as are my brother and sister being solely US citizens.

So - am I a first generation American? I certainly do NOT feel like a second generation American, that is for sure. Also, my daughter technically is also of Dutch citizenship because of my citizenship, yet she is a second generation American i nmy thinking.

So what is it: country of origin or country of birth? (and add in cultural orientation to the mix if you wish).

Maybe Porsche will respond :-)

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Great topic...this is tough for all of in this position. It brings a little more clarity...but not much ;-)! My father is from the Philippines, I was born here in the states (Oregon)...so I've always considered myself a 2nd generation Asian American! After reading this...I'm going to stick with that! Thanks!

justinlim.org

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So, if a family (Grandparents, Parents, and Children) comes to America, are they all first generation?

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I came to the US 10 years ago with a 2 year old daughter. My second daughter was born after 2 years. According to one of the definitions offered, my older daughter is an immigrant generation, and my younger daughter is a first generation american. It doesn't make much sense to me.

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Pogodi, why doesn't it make sense? That's precisely the reason the terms exist, so that you can differentiate between your daughters' immigration or citizenship status (as well as yours).

Of course, there is still the ambiguity. Some would call you and your older daughter immigrants, and your younger daughter, first generation. Others would call you and your older daughter first generation, and your younger daughter, second generation. Still others might call you an immigrant (if you do not become a citizen), your first daughter, first generation (if she does), and your second daughter, second generation. The possibilites are almost endless.

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generation??? i dunno...
because that's my assignment...
hehehehe... Smile!!!!

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Nice post, John.

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According to the U.S. Government, a citizen of the US but born somewhere else is "first generation" and born in the US to at least one parent who was not born in the US is "second generation".
http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archive...

Seems to me a definitive answer; not sure why so many people are so up in arms about it.

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Amazing thread. I admit I always thought first generation meant one thing but did occasionally see it used differently, and honestly, just thought it was a misunderstanding.

It seems to me that there is an answer that several writers touched on, but never really developed. Follow me on this:

There are situations in English where words are implied, but left out. Example: "Close the door." (Implies YOU shut the door, but YOU is implied.)

Thus, first generation American is implying something- either first generation American citizen or first generation born in America. In my family, the second one was the term meant (and often actually voiced, as in "you are third generation American" (great grandparents immigrated from Germany and my grandmother born in America).

However if you mean "citizen" then the other definition obviously applies. Interestingly, it appears that different cultures or languages may influence which implied meaning is felt to be correct. An example is the Japanese words and concepts explained early on, vs. the Greek understanding of the opposite meaning.

And yes, language is fun....

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I'm a sociology major at UCLA. When I was taking a class on Chinese Immigration, we defined first generation as people who were born elsewhere and moved to American in their adulthood. Second generation are those who are born and raised here in America. 1.5 generation are those that were born elsewhere and moved here before the age of 12.

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I always considered myself first generation American, as I was born in the US and both my parents were immigrants. My father eventually naturalized, my mother did not.

I noticed that a number of the immigrants claiming to be first generation Americans mentioned that their parents brought them to this country as children. What do they call their parents? They didn't say.

Adding to the confusion of course is the fact that my parents came from the Caribbean. People in Central and South America consider themselves Americans too. They call residents of the US North Americans or Yankees. Frank Lloyd Wright coined the term Usonian. It hasn't caught on yet.

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If a mother was born in a foreign country, and the father was born and is a US citizen, they then have a female child. Is the child 1st generation even if the father is 4th generation?

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Plain and simple. I'm a First Generation American -- an immigrant who became a naturalized citizen. My children would be considered Second Generation Americans.

However, if you're Second Generation American, it doesn't necessarily mean your parents were naturalized citizens. They were the first ones HERE. And they gave birth to you HERE.

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"1st generation" refers to the foreign-born immigrants. "2nd generation" refers to the first native-born generation.

This is the official bureaucratic definition and they're fairly straightforward.

The thinking that just because someone is foreign-born, they cannot be considered American has tones of jingoism. And the idea that someone must be citizen to be an American ignores the fact that immigrants and women were long barred from citizenship. You're American the moment you settle on these shores - you're not a citizen, but you're living in the culture, land, and ideals of the USA. It can't be helped.

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Why can't we just accept it the way it is instead of trying to make it more difficult than it already is. Let's just move on... to more important issues, perhaps.

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Wow, after talking to several people about what generation I am and getting confused with each new person that I talked to, (I originally thought of it as, if you are born here then you're first generation regardless of citizenship and etc) I scoured the Internet for a while looking for the correct definition, and I eventually found this thread. I have to say that it has been extremely entertaining reading all of these comments. haha
Nonetheless, it has helped me to understand that the term is essentially ambiguous and that the only way to make it unambiguous is to like many of the posts above wrote, be specific.
However, there is one question that I have found that everyone has, I think, intentionally avoided and that question is Nola's post from Apr-30-08 11:36AM. I have read through pretty much the entire thread to see whether or not someone has answered this question and no one has, for I am in somewhat the same situation as Nola:
My mother is an immigrant from China that came here and married my father, who is also Chinese, but was born in the U.S.
Now my question is what would that make me?
I would like to hear an opinion on this. I usually refer to myself as 1.5, usually just for a laugh though.

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What I'm about to suggest will not be backed up by any dictionary, but I think of it as more a matter of cultural assimilation. If you see a parent ask their kid a question in their native tongue, they're first generation. If the kid answers in English, they're second generation.

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I have a green card, and I have every intention of becoming a citizen. But I need the green card FIRST, dumbass.

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Am I considered first generation if only one of my parents is an immigrant? My mother came from Germany while my father was born in the US.

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Why are people so emphatic about knowing the truth when it is clearly ambiguous as this discussion proves?

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I think I am second generation. I came over to America when I was 5 from Brazil. I only spent my babyhood over there and have lived my formative childhood years and adult years here. All my life experiences have been similar to second generation. My parents worked every immigrant job from sweatshops to construction, didnt learn fluent english but can get by, bought a house and naturalized. I was born here but I came over very little. How little is little enough to be considered second generation? I have been told I am second since I am the child that was brough up here by immigrants. I feel second since I didnt come over on my own accord but I am definately not third. I can speak english and portugese fluently and I was raised to be American and I have zero desire in returning to Brazil. I have also naturalized. But I think I would be 1.5 generations or second? My life is very similar to second generation people. I went to college and married my husband who is an Irish descent American and have a very suburban life. I dont feel very American however Im not an immigrant like my parents. I also have very little Latin personality traits or leanings and only speak portuguese with my family, in the house. Wouldnt I be more second than first generation?

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My mother asked me this question, wanting to know if she's 3rd or 4th generation. I asked some of the members of our genealogy society, and no one was sure. After reading all of this, I'm still not sure! I am, however, incllined towards 'the first generation born here' simply because so many immigrants were families: parents and children - which otherwise would mean that both the parents and those children would be '1st generation', while any children born subsequently would be '2nd generation' - which would split siblings.

All of my 2nd great-grandparents were immigrants; but in several cases (on my father's side), they came with their parents (my 3rd gg parents). What does that make me?

I think it would be clearest to refer to:
the 'immigrant generation(s)' and
the 'first American-born generation' etc.

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I have the same question "John" asked previously. If only one of my parents were born outside the US, immigrated here and married a US citizen..what generation does that make me?

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I can't believe this is topic was going on for more then a year. It doesn't matter if you have green card or citizen or not, but if you, as who was born in US, wouln't be here if you weren't for your parents. The way I see it is simple then what it is. I was adpoted by American family. If i were to have kids, they WILL BE 2ND GEN. I'm the 1st Gen in America. I can't belieive comment by AO back in Apr-16-06 that AO would be the first generation in he/she family because he/she was to born in America for the first time and saying "to have an American head." So question is where his/her parents comes in place?? As you some people mentioned "zero generation" There is no such this as zero Generation.

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Hey Tae Hee,

Whether or not you believe it, that is what we say in my family. Chill out.

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If I were to go by the definition given above, "What I'm about to suggest will not be backed up by any dictionary, but I think of it as more a matter of cultural assimilation. If you see a parent ask their kid a question in their native tongue, they're first generation. If the kid answers in English, they're second generation."

I was 1st generation then changed into 2nd generation. I spoke fluently as a child, but grew self conscious of my pronunciation and my sister's teasing me, so I stopped speaking in Italian. Obviously you can't just hop a generation! My understanding since I was a child is that my parents are naturalized citizens and I am 1st generation American. I wish it went by how I felt because I would have dual citizenship right now. :-)

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First generation is where it began. If it began in the US, parents and siblings who arrived as immigrants and were subsequently naturalized citizens, constitute First Generation - where it began. Children of this first generaton are Second Generation. The First Generation is where it all started from. Some who claim first generation do not like this. But facts are facts. After 1 there is 2,3,4.... etc. It doesn't start with 0. My parents and I are First Generation as immigrants. My siblings born in the US and my Children are second generation. Sister does not like this fact, my daughter uinderstands

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I found this blog by wondering the same question. Both sides have some good points.

For me though (so far), the ones who immigrated here are the "original" generation, and the first ones born here are the first generation. They were "generated" here.

I was born in Canada. I was conceived, born, and raised here.
My dad's parents moved here from England, and dad was born and raised here in Canada.
My mum's parents: sired and raised my mother in Scotland. My mother moved here when she was an adult and married my father here...

Uh, oh!!

So, paternally I'm second generation English Canadian. Maternally, I'm first generation Scottish Canadian! (or if you look at it the other way, for the debate here....etc. etc...). I didn't mean to make it more confusing, I just discovered this now!

I guess it comes down to a matter of one's own perception as to what generation they are. Perhaps what's best (and what's been mentioned before) is saying "First generation born here".

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My dad came to America on 1991 and then 10 years later rest of my family came. My dad and I both were born in China. He has green card now, and I became U.S citizen about 2 months ago. So my question is "Is both my dad and I consider first generation Americans or is my kids will be?

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To be the first or not to be the first generation? Unconsciously we are arguing over inclusion and exclusion. Those who don't consider their immigrants parents as first generation are simply excluding and not honoring their parent's life/existance in America, by the same token, those who considerer their foreign-born parents as first generation, recognize that if it wasn't for them they wouldn't be here in the first place.
There is no generation without parents.

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Howdy,

My parents are Native American, both born in 1937; my grand parents were all born between in their native tribal areas around 1906 to 1913.

My question is: since native American Indians did not become U.S. American citizens until 1924, what generation American does that make me? Some say I've always been American, but that does not seem correct to me, since my ancestors were Siksika-Pakuni/Blackfeet here, and the American institution moved across the Continent and came to them.

My guess is since my grandparents were alive when the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act came into effect, that would make them First-Generation American; my parents born after the fact would be second-generation; me being third-generation...

I know this does not matter, but it did cross my mind when I came across this site and wanted to know what all these people meant when they said they were 4-generation, 6-generation and so on. Kind of like, what is meant by twice removed, when explaining cousins, what does that mean, removed from what and or whom?

thanks :O)P

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What would you say I am....
My parents of Indian descent, were born in India, under the British rule. Both received British passports when they travelled and after marriage lived all their lives outside of India.
I was born and brought up in Africa, under the British rule. I possess a British passport and have birth right in the country I was born in Africa (I would need to give up all other nationality).
I have married and my family have moved to Canada - I now also have Canadian citizenship.

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My name is Gebissa I was born in Ethiopia, live and work in Germany I have two children in US born right now they live in germany too we are planning to move in state but we don`t have a permant resedent how could we get that on behalf of our child?

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The people who emmigrated to the US (or anywhere) first, are the first generation. Their children are the second generation, etc.

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The Greek word 'genea' means birth. But the applicable Webster's definition of the English word 'generation' is "a body of living beings constituting a single step in the line of descent from an ancestor". So, the word meerly distinguishs my grandparents, my parents and myself as unique links in the chain of geanology.

The question is, what action is "first" qualifying (to be born, to imigrate, to acquire citizenship). I think that it is the first generation "to permantly reside" in the US. When we talk about generations, birth and citizenship are secondary. We are more interested in the level of assimilation into the local culture, language, and community. The immigrant generation deserves credit for being "the first" to struggle with assimilating and socializing into the new country. They are the FIRST GENERATION!!!

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I think some people are thinking way too deeply into this label.

My mother was born in Cuba. My father, in the Dominican Republic. Both came to the U.S. as kids but they don't call themselves first generation Americans. My sister and I are the first generation Americans in my family, along with some cousins, because we were born here and have grown up here, surrounded by American culture. It is in no way disrespecting the fact that our parents grew up here. They are still Americans.

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After all these years, the thread is still active. Some were sure it was unambiguous, and now the consensus seems to be that it's ambiguous. But I still have no clue what generation I am, my children are, or my parents or grandparents are.

My wife was born in Vietnam. I was born in NYC. My children are children of an immigrant parent, making them first, or second generation according to some of what this thread says. My father was born in the US. My mom comes from France. Both of my parents are children of immigrants.

So my children have an immigrant parent, I have an immigrant parent, and my father has immigrant parents. My children have an American born father and an American born grandfather, and I have an American born father.

My conclusion is that my father is a first generation American and a second generation American. His parents were first generation or not any generation. I am first generation, and second and third generation. My children are first, second, third, and fourth generation.

I could make a case for any of these generations based on specific definitions in this thread. Or I could come to the opposite conclusion. If I take the term "parents" (plural) as a literal requirement, then my children and I can't claim to have (two) parents who were immigrants, and can't claim to have (two) parents who were born in the US. That would mean that none of the above apply and I'm not any generation American, and neither are my kids. If any of the definitions apply to a parent (singular), it's not apparent.

Does it make sense to say my children are first generation on their mother's side? Are they fourth generation Americans who happen to be children of an immigrant parent, and raised in a home with a cultural background that comes from abroad?

All I know is that my children are the third generation in my family born in the US to an immigrant parent and the second generation born to a US born parent. So should I add 2.5 generation to the list? That leaves five answers for my children. If you thought two was bad, five is worse. The good news is that if I average all five, I still get 2.5 so I can add that to the list again, call it the mode, and go with it.

As far as college goes, my grandfather could not afford to finish it. So my kids will be the fourth generation to attend college in the US, and the third to graduate.

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Of course, first-generation Americans refers to immigrants. Otherwise, you'd be saying that immigrants can never be Americans. Second-generation are those born here. You know, like Obama.

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1st generation by definition with regards to immigration is the person or persons who were born elsewhere and immigrated to the U.S. Second generation in regards to immigration are those who are born here. Here's an example, I have a friend who moved here when he was 6 years old from Grenada with his mother who was 26 and his grandmother who was 46. They are all 1st generation Americans by definition in regards to immigration. Of course there is a great deal of difference between the 3 generations of 1 generation of Americans. We may have to start using subcategories like the 1.5 generation definition which would refer to the 6 year old in this case. He has an American accent and views while his parents and grandparents are much more "old world" as would be expected. None of them can become president as none were born in America...maybe we should look at changing that law too? Ask Aronld what he thinks about that?

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It's very simple. The first immigrants who came here, even if the group included grandparents, parents and your older brother, are your "immigrant ancestors" and the first persons born here are "first generation Americans."

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Peter,

According to the Census Bureau "if either parent is foreign born, children are second generation." Interesting. So if one parent can trace lineage to the Mayflower but the other parent is foreign born, the children are second generation.

As far as assimilation, from my experience most second generation Americans think of themselves as assimilated. Almost all immigrants want to assimilate, although many have difficulties. Their children do not. It would take a special effort to prevent assimilation of one's native born children, especially with today's mass culture.

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"You cannot live in this country unless you are a naturalized citizen. I would say 99% of the immigrants who had children here were naturalized Americans."

I agree with Dyske that the term '1st generation' is ambiguous. However, the statement above is decidedly incorrect. Moot point or no, it shouldn't have been used to support any argument.

Some clarity is derived when you notice who's using the term. People still in the homeland tend to consider emigrants as the 1st generation.

American citizens already here prior to immigrants' arrival wouldn't have cared to refer to them as anything approaching a '1st generation'.

The children of immigrants would tend to be motivated to consider their parents as part of the American tapestry.

Both groups might be expected to loathe doing anything that might be interpreted as diluting their hard-fought identity as Americans.

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Haha, thanks to everyone who has commented on this for years. Am doing an English-Chinese translation now and came across the phrase first-generation American; your comments helped me (well, to a certain extent-now that I know it has two different meanings, not sure how I'll translate it!)

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Hi. Everyone. I am actually confused about this subject. My parents immigrated here from Vietnam, and I was the first one to be born in the US. SO, I get confused when my teacher asks me am I first or second generation. Can somebody help me with that! I want to be able to answer that question in class! Thanks!!

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I like bismarck's comments...I think the confusion comes because I bet if you check old English terms, the question was: how long has your family been upon this land? And for the first 100 years or so it was a question Americans asked one another re: how far they were removed from the "mother country" and it had to do explicitly with BIRTH. After all, why make the distinction? Well, if you are born here, this is probably all you know, especially in a world without airplanes, etc., and that described a different individual than a.) those left behind; and b.) those who came here mid-life (pioneers/pilgrims). First generation described someone who didn't have a choice: they were born here because of decisions their parents made.
Later, when much more immigration occurred from other countries after there was a requirement to be "naturalized" or otherwise accepted, it makes sense that they would have different standards for defining the terms...

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postscript: it just occurs to me: why should the numbering of your generation depend upon who you happen to be in the company of when you arrive? If you arrive in the U.S. as a sixteen-year-old with your grandparents and your parents, and if the grandparents get naturalized (or not, depending upon definitions above) are you then considered "third generation"? Seems kind of funny to me. Back to how definitions evolve: what were they trying to determine/measure back when they created the distinction? How did the options or answers change over time? Thankfully we are all free to interpret and question this, and definitions can morph (as I believe Websters did by adding definition #2 over time).

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What an absolute bundle of rubbish... These descriptions are not legal definitions and are meaningless since they are used interchangeably. Children, when the teacher asks you, "Timmy, of which generation are you?" Simply ask them to please clarify their question. Otherwise you run the risk of the resulting discussion running on for the entire length of your childhood!

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Les-

Here's a way to figure out what the survey probably means. Do they have a separate "immigrant" choice (in addition to a "first generation" option? If so, they probably mean "child of immigrants" by "first generation"; if not, they probably mean "immigrant."

Unless there's some reason to belive they expect only native-born Americans to be filling out the poll.

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What are we called who did not immigtate from a foreign country to the United States, but were here when this country became the United States of America. My ancestors are the soldiers who took control of the colonies by whipping the British and then making this country The United States of America. I am not related to anyone who came from a foreign country to The U.S.

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As a 1.5-er, I have found that there lacks a space where I can share my stories, so I have created a social networking site where I hope to hear from other 1.5-ers on what their experiences were growing up.

http://onepointfive.ning.com/

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I had to fill out a survey a few weeks ago in regards to this and about differences between Asian kids' values vs. their parents. One of the questions was asking me what generation I was, and I couldn't decided between 1st and 2nd generation. I say this because I think this whole generation thing applies very poorly to US military brats (I'm a navy brat btw) who are more likely to be born on an overseas US military installation than on the homeland, and yet act more American than their parents (if their parents were immigrants who joined the US military). My parents were born in the Philippines, I was born in the Philippines, and my brother was born in Misawa Air Base in Japan. Yet my brother and I act more Americanized than our parents because we grew up in an environment that embraced the whole "Third Culture Kid" mentality.

So technically, despite me and my brother disagreeing with some of the more stiff values & traditions of our parents who were born & raised in the Philippines, I guess my bro & and I are still considered 1-generation even though the places we were born in Asia were places that had American GI communities? Well, what if my future kids were say...born at Rammstein Air Base or at RAF Lackenheath, yet act more culturally assimilated into American culture than I am when it comes to the whole Asian/American divide? And say, if my future kids also decide to join the military as well and give birth to children at say...Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan or Osan Air Base in Korea, then are those children considered first-generation as well despite being even more far removed from Asian values than their parents/my future children? I hate how this stupid generation classification doesn't take into account military brats, because the Asian military brats are some of the most Americanized I have ever encountered.

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P.S.S. ^ All of the above would also apply the same to "missionary kids", "brats", "foreign service brats", etc. basically, any Third-Culture Kid. Right now, there is an interesting discussion going on with this here on the whole "TCK vs. 1.5 Gen-ers" here: http://www.8asians.com/2011/07/20/im-a-third-cu...

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My mother is an immigrant from Europe and my father is born in New Jersey. Does this make me a 1.5 generation American or a 2 generation American?

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Ok...not the answer I was looking for..but heres some more information. My parents are the first one from my family to move to the US in 1983. I was then born in 1985. Now, that would make me what generation? :) Someone help me here. Thanks!!

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LoLo - if you scroll to the top and read to the bottom, you will know how to answer your question. If you want it summed up then here it is...

According to both Webster's dictionary and most of the opinions posted, It seems that you may label yourself either "First Generation" or "Second Generation" if you choose to do so. This means that your parents can label themselves "First Generation" or "First Generation Immigrants" or "Immigrants".

Before doing a search on these Labels and terms like you have, I always thought the I was an immigrant and that my children will be "First Generation". But, reading this blob has enlightened me to the various "correct" interpretations of these Labels and whether one should depend of these Labels at all. So I believe the proper thing to tell your classmates would be to say that you are both "First Generation" and "Second Generation" depending on who's asking.

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I've read most of this thread and it does a thorough job of documenting the ambiguity. So further thrashing on this not helpful.

If a term is ambiguous, simply meaning people use it in conflicting ways, the responsible thing to do is to define your terms when you speak or write. Period. Changing the culture to eliminate the ambiguity is a long term effort that may or may not be worth the trouble.

To bring in a different context, consider the political categories of liberal, conservative, progressive, etc. I find more diversity in each group of self-identified people that between them. My solution is to ask people:
- what do they want to conserve and why?
- what do they want to liberate from what and why?
- what do they consider progress vs backward and why?

In each case I want to cut through the slop and find substance.
Often I find small minded people who can't reason beyond labeling - and I walk away.

Likewise with insisting on one definition of a term when a dictionary or experience demonstrates ambiguous usage. I is our responsibility to own disambiguating the potentially ambiguous. Many words have multiple definitions in the dictionary. My job is to indicate which one I'm referring to in my use of the term - and perhaps just for this conversation and context.

Does that help get this discussion grounded?

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PS - I like the idea of people taking pride in having chosen where they want to live and expressing that as them being of that country now, i.e. a first generation in the new country.

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As a comment to what Mariskova and Dyske wrote, I would say that there might be a difference when you would say "First Generation American" vs. "First Generation Immigrant", since the first generation doesn't necessarily have to become citizens of the country where they immigrated. However, the generation who actually immigrated, should therefore be called "First Generation Immigrants", because the second generation aren't actually immigrants.

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univac computer

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For me, first generation is the first generation to be born in the country. We call immigrants fobs (FOB - Fresh-Off the Boat) back in y2k when we were still in high school.

@Tundra I would consider you as a 2nd generation.

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I was born in puerto rico my kids were born in new york they are first generation puerto rican americans. do to the fact that puerto rico is not part of the main land. the same goes for people that come from hawaii and there a state of the united states

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Sorry,

should have written "third generation born in this country". See how easy it is to leave it at the implied level?

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I side with the first naturalized person being the first generation. The first people to do something would be the first-generation in my mind.

If we scooped a bunch of people to go live on another planet, they would be the first generation of people to live there.

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This question has already been answered categorically and incontrovertibly nearly 8 months ago. I am amazed that it is still generating such discussion and dissent!

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What happens if a family of three generations immigrate to the US, and all become US citizen? Which generation would be called first, or second? Or none at all, because none of them were born in the US.

Who would like a crack at this?

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Merriam Webster's latest mode to the contrary, words and terms do have fixed meanings.

A foreigner living in America, whether he is an illegal alien, a legal resident alien, or a naturalized citizen in "the immigrant".

A child born in the US to an immigrant is a "first generation American".

In genealogy, those of us who have colonial ancestors refer to the person who moved to the colonies as "the immigrant" and count our generations from the first generation born in the colonies. For example: My immigrant ancestor moved to Jamestown in 1607. I am a 12th generation American, even though the US didn't come into being until much later.

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Just to help those of you out who are filling out surveys and applications:

All language is inherently ambiguous, and is only good insofar as an idea from one person can be communicated to another. In other words, if I have my own language, but never use it to communicate with other people, the words don't have a "meaning," though they may have a definition.

I should be clear that this only applies to those who want to fill out surveys and applications, and not the broader dispute about "meaning" in general conversation; those of you seeking to determine meaning on a survey or application have a much narrower task: how do I, without being misleading, inform my prospective employer, or surveyor, of my status? If the survey/application asks you what generation you are, then they presumably have some definition of "first-generation" in mind; they certainly aren't using the terms as "generally accepted," as I think the bulk of this thread has demonstrated, such a meaning does not exist.

In the end, there's only one way to inform the surveyor of your status: either choose a generation, and explain in a "comments" section, or ask the person or persons responsible for the survey how they define the terms. Otherwise, you may mean to say one thing, and communicate something entirely different.

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@Juno- you would all be called first generation immigrants. If you really want, you can call the youngest, perhaps a child under X years old the 1.5 generation. My family and I immigrated to Canada together 35 years ago when I was a toddler. We all are first generation immigrants but since I grew up here and assimilated into the Canadian culture, lifestyle and upbringing, I consider myself 1.5 generation. I still am able to speak Chinese to my parents and grandparents. My children were born here, thus, according to webster's dictionary or wikipedia are second generation.

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I don't know about other English speaking countries like England or Australia, but here in Canada the census defines a first-generation Canadian as "foreign born people over age 15" (the census has a similar definition in the US but the age might be different).

Note though that as long as one parent is foreign-born, you will be considered 2nd generation no matter how long the trail goes back for your other great-great etc grandparents. So,as @hsu_ag-member said, even if one parent can trace lineage back to the Mayflower, but the other parent is from say England, the kids are considered 2nd generation.

So in my own case, even though both my grandmothers were 2nd generation, I myself am only 2nd generation because my grandmothers married foreign-born as did my mom. My kids too will only be 2nd generation because I married someone born in Europe.

Note too, it doesn't matter if the parent is Canadian or American, the key is foreign-born. So if a 4th G American marries an American born in France who came back to the US at age 3, the kids are only 2nd G according to the government. I suspect that in our global age, there will be an increasing number of 2nd G people.

@Preston: I'm not positive, but most Asians use 1st G to mean the ones who came to the country, their kids are 2nd G.

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i think first generation are those born here and the term immigrants actually refers to those who were born in another country and immigrated here. the second generation are those who are the children of the first generation.

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A first-generation immigrant is either someone born in America whose parents immigrated, or a person who immigrated but attained U.S. citizenship.

Dyske is completely wrong when he states that "The majority of Green Card holders have no intension of becoming citizens because they prefer to be the citizens of their origins. They just want to work here."
This is simply not true; many immigrants permanently move to the U.S., but do not wish to become citizens. They work here, but did not just come here to work. Most do have families, and their children are U.S. citizens. It is not at all a rare occurence, but actually quite frequent, especially in cities and suburbs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with living here on a green card and having a family; if a person feels no need to become a U.S. citizen then they will not.
p.s. People who cannot even spell words correctly in English should not pretend to know exact stats about the immigrant population in the U.S. (ahem...Dyske)

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What I'm trying to figure out is "what generation does a person need to be, to be considered a yankee?". I wonder how long this discussion will continue considering the generation question has gone on for seven years .

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good day i just wanna ask something. my great grand father was a us citizen
and my grand father is the only soon but he died..never been to us. is there any chances that his/her children apply for immigration program? thank you and more power

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OH! Who is the Original Second Generation? Cain and Able ..... Adam and Eve are first generation, where it started on Earth, in the Garden of Eden. Best example of First Generation that I know of. Then furture generations spread. But, who married Cain and Able? Sister? Another Question for another time.

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i took asian american studies classes when i was in college and i was taught that i am a first generation filipino-american. my parents were born in the philippines, but immigrated here almost 40 years ago. They were just recently naturalized. I refer to them as filipinos (not filipino-americans), but when i want to be more specific i say they are naturalized americans (implying they were born elsewhere). Question: What if a canadian born citizen visits the US and has a child here? The child is definitely american but the mother is not. The mother's citizenship, if she chooses to apply for it, is dependent on the BIRTH of the child.

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bizmark, I don't think we are imposing biological conventions on social issues. I think we are imposing biological conventions on biological issues. Namely, BIRTH.

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People who were born here and whose parents are foreign born are first generation Americans because I said so. To put it another way, all the other comments boil down to the same thing; they are a certain generation because people who posted comments said so, or so the posters think. When you have an expression that is in common and regular use, and is used regularly in more than one way, it means that the expression has several different definitions. Unfortunately, in the case of this phrase, the definitions conflict.

So you can't look for which one is correct. They are both correct, but neither is meaningful. Dictionaries, Wikipedia and other sources do not make any of this clearer because there's no definitive answer.

If there were a definitive answer, there would be one and only one way to answer this question: What generation am I, what generation are my children, and what generation are my parents? (I'm talking about me specifically.) My father was born in the US to immigrant parents. My mother and her parents were immigrants. I was born in the US (to one immigrant parent and one US born parent, for those keeping track) and my wife is an immigrant. Thus my children also have one US born parent and one immigrant parent, but have no idea if their US born parent is first generation, second generation, or third generation. They can be considered anywhere from first to fourth generation depending on which person you ask. Can anybody answer the question without saying (implicitly or explicitly) "because I said so?" If it's not because you said so, it means you have a definitive source that shows why your explanation is correct and why others are wrong.

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Lyric,

Verified by the immigrant parents of a friend of yours does not make it any more definitive, unless your friend's parents are the ones in charge of the English language. But English doesn't work that way. Languages such as French are officially under the province of government. The French government gets to decide what is and what is not French. But English did not evolve that way and has nobody in charge. First, people were speaking it. Then people were writing and reading it. Then dictionaries came along to document how it was being used. Dictionaries don't dictate correct usage, but document it based on what's generally accepted. That would go by how phrases such as "First generation American" are used and understood in everyday language. If there's no consensus, there's no valid authority with the right to define it.

RaymondBalta,

You are correct if we look at the word "generation" alone, and specifically look at the definition that would apply to families. Parents and children are a single step away in natural descent. There's no question that my parents, I, and my children, are of three different generations. There's also no question that my parents were Americans. But that doesn't clarify anything.

My mother is American and so were her parents, but none was born in the US. Thus, her parents may have been the first generation in her family to live in the US and become naturalized citizens. I don't know if they became naturalized before, after, or at the same time as my mother. If my mother was naturalized first, then she was of the first generation in her family to become US citizens, and her parents' generation would have been the second one to do so. If it was the other way around, it would mean that she became naturalized while having parents who were US citizens. Thus she would have been the second generation in her family to attain US citizenship, and the second generation in linear succession to do so. If they all got naturalized at the same time, then what? She'd still be the offspring of first generation Americans and would have equal claim to being the first generation in the family to have US citizenship.

And it still does nothing to address offspring of parents whose families have been citizens for a different number of generations. Under your definition, my children would unquestionably be fourth generation based on paternal lineage. But they'd be second generation based on maternal lineage. So what generation does that make them, and according to what rule?

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1st Generation Immigrant is someone who is the first of their generation to immigrate. A 1st Generation American would be the first of their generation to be born in the US.

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Random thoughts:

Ok, I don't think the question is whether the term is ambiguous anymore...that seems to be established. But this state of affairs does not sit well. Some resolution would be useful. If you are just talking to someone it is easy enough to ask them to clarify but what if it is just written or an interview on TV? Or what if it is a class situation as one person was asking about. What if the teacher asks, gets an answer, and then just assumes they are on the same page and does not ask for a clarification, then anyone listening would not know which it was either.

Here's how we could do it: instead of the whole "born here" thing I think it is more important were you were raised. If you were the first generation raised here then call that first generation if you have parents or grandparent who came here just call them generation zero or immigrants. It is kinda strange how immigrant can sound negative in a land of immigrants. If for instance someone asked “Are you or your parents immigrants?” It is hard to not take it negatively.

You can say in response to "Are you first generation or second?" with “I am the proud child/son/daughter of immigrants,” or “I immigrated in 1988” or whatever year, or “my parents came-here/immigrated in 1972” or whatever or if you want to be less specific you can say “…in the 1970’s.” You don't actually have to say 1st or 2nd; the important thing is to communicate clearly. They still may ask “Were you born here?,” if you tried the first suggestion. You can choose to answer that or not. If you grew up here, I would just say that. The other stuff, that’s none of their business unless they are officials or something. It’s like asking your birthday.

The whole generation thing is not applicable if your parents are different generations in my opinion. Or if it is, it would be based on the earliest ancestor in America not the most recent or the average or the male line or what have you unless the earliest is native. If they are and they are the only one and generations ago it would be silly to call yourself Native American. And it would be quite a chuckle elicitor if you looked Korean and spoke Korean and said you were Native American. And it would be a real head scratchier if you said I am Korean but my family has been here for thousands of years.

In genealogy circles 1st generation is usually the first generation to have or raise children here, or whatever place we are talking about. So if they drug their parents or grandparents here the son or daughter who actually had a family here would be 1st generation.

First generator? First generated? What about that? First progenitor? Too bad you can’t use “colonist” or “pioneer” they sound nice but it only applies to the first settlers from abroad. The options go downhill from there.

Well, that doesn’t seem to clarify much of anything. I stupidly thought I might get somewhere.

Hey what about “Yes” as the answer to “Are you first or second generation?”?
Don’t know why punctuation seems to be such a nightmare. Sorry, if I damaged all the grammarians’ retinas.

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The traditional use of 'first generation' refers to those born in America. Immigrants weren't generated in America. They came here.

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Puerto Rican are100% American by birth.

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I have always called myself second generation. It made no sense to me to do otherwise. But that said, after thinking about it, I think it depends on the perspective you use and which nationality you are using as a reference point.

For instance, if your parents immigrated to the US and you are speaking about your connection to your homeland (say, Nigeria) you will call yourself a "second generation Nigerian". Your parents would be "first generation Nigerians" since they were born there.

On the other hand, you can refer to yourself as a "first generation Nigerian-American" (or hey, just an American) and be saying the same thing. I don't think your predessors would ever call themselves 2nd generation anything though, unless they were speaking about their own parents if they themselves were also immigrants (but to Nigeria). I think your parents in this case, as it concerned their connection between Nigeria and the land they immigrated to, would just refer to themselves as Nigerian-American immigrants.

JMO

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