Traditionally, users of Census Bureau data rely on decennial census and Current Population Survey (CPS) data for detailed information on the U.S. foreign-born population.
Less frequently used, but in many ways equally useful, are other Census Bureau-maintained surveys including: the American Community Survey (ACS), the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the New York Housing Vacancy Survey (NYCHVS), and the American Housing Survey (AHS). (See Table 1 for a detailed listing of all survey instruments discussed in this paper.)
In addition to the surveys detailed here, the Census Bureau currently provides national-level projections of the U.S. resident population by nativity through 2100. The Census Bureau has also provided national-level estimates by nativity for the 1990 to 1999 period.3 We are currently researching the feasibility of providing national-level annual estimates of the population by nativity for the post-2000 period.
Decennial Census (Census 1990 & Census 2000)
Using various methods, the Census Bureau maintains data on the foreign-born population. In both the 1990 and 2000 decennial censuses, international migration-related data have been collected for the entire U.S. resident population, including people in group quarters.4
Questions of place of birth, citizenship status, year of entry, ancestry, residence five years ago, and language spoken at home are included in both the 1990 and 2000 decennial censuses.5 Table 2 illustrates the migration-related items found in the 2000 decennial census.6
A notable omission from the most recent censuses is parental nativity (birthplace of parents), asked each census year since 1870, but discontinued after the 1970 census.7 Starting in the 1980 census, a question on ancestry (based on self-identification) replaced the question on birthplace of parents. (Gibson and Lennon, 1999; Bohme, 1989)
To date, the decennial census provides the sole means by which to study small groups of the foreign-born population at the national and detailed subnational levels (i.e., state, county, and subcounty).
The Census 2000 questionnaires were translated into five languages (Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Tagalog). To assist individuals who are more proficient in languages other than English, language guides were provided in 49 other languages.
American Community Survey (ACS)8
In 2003, the Census Bureau anticipates full implementation of the American Community Survey (ACS) in every county of the United States.9 The survey will eventually include an annual sample of three million housing units, including group quarters populations. Data (responses) are collected by mail and Census Bureau staff follow up with those who do not respond.
The ACS is intended to replace the census long form, providing timely demographic, housing, social, and economic data every year for all states, as well as for all cities, counties, metropolitan areas, and population groups of 65,000 people or more. Multi-year averages will be produced for geographic areas or population groups of fewer than 65,000. (U.S. Census Bureau, May 2002)
One important difference between the ACS and the decennial census involves the definition of residence. The ACS concept of residence ("current residence") differs from the decennial census concept of "usual residence" (place where a person lives and sleeps most of the time or the place they consider their usual residence). "Current residence" requires that a person only have one residence at any point in time; however, their residence does not have to be in the same place throughout the year for the ACS. A two-month same residence rule was established for the ACS. Given the seasonal movement of some migrant groups, such conceptual differences as "current" or "usual" residence may affect whether or not a person is counted in a particular location at a particular time.
The foreign-born related questions asked in Census 2000 are asked as well for the ACS. (See Table 2.) The annual release of data, available at detailed subnational levels of geography, provides a wealth of information never before available in an ongoing and timely manner from either decennial censuses or smaller sample surveys.
The ACS paper version of the questionnaire is currently only available in English; Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews (CATI) and Computer Assisted Personal Interviews (CAPI) are conducted both in English and Spanish, where needed.
Current Population Survey (CPS)
In addition to the decennial census, national surveys such as the Current Population Survey (CPS) regularly ask questions useful to the analysis of international migration. The CPS is an interviewer-administered, monthly survey of approximately 50,000 households.10 The main purpose of the CPS is to collect information on the labor force characteristics of the U.S. population—specifically, to assess monthly unemployment changes.
Two sets of questions, the basic monthly questions and the supplements, are asked of respondents. The basic CPS collects labor force and demographic information about the civilian noninstitutional population.11
Throughout the 1980s, the Census Bureau collected intercensal data on the foreign born by including supplements to the CPS. These supplements were fielded in April 1983, June 1986, June 1988, and November 1989.
Since 1994, the basic CPS also includes questions on nativity of respondent and parental nativity, citizenship status, and year of entry into the United States. The March (Annual Demographic) supplement includes questions about poverty status, money income received, health insurance, household and family characteristics, marital status, and geographic mobility in the previous 12 months (including moves from abroad).12 Beginning in 1998, the March supplement has included a question identifying the main reason for moving.
For studying the foreign born, researchers rely primarily on the March CPS data due to the increased sample size of about 2,500 eligible housing units containing at least one individual of Hispanic origin. (Schmidley, 2001) Because the foreign-born related items are located on the basic (monthly) questionnaire, studies of the foreign born can also be conducted using averaged monthly files. Table 3 features the international migration-related items regularly found in the CPS since 1994.
Important differences exist between estimates of the population from the decennial census and those from the March CPS. While the universe for the census is the entire resident population of the U.S., the universe for the March CPS is the civilian noninstitutional population plus Armed Forces living off post or with their families on post. Foreign-born individuals in nursing homes or prisons will not be included in the CPS count as they are housed in facilities not covered by the CPS.
Also, whereas the CPS is an interviewer-administered survey (in-person or by telephone), the census is primarily a mail-out/mail-back format. In the interviewer-administered format, respondents may ask the interviewer for his/her opinion as to how they should reply to a given question. The interviewer has been trained to provide clarification where applicable.
Finally, CPS population estimates are adjusted for undercoverage using the most recent decennial census. Current CPS estimates of the foreign born (through 2001) are adjusted to the 1990 census, and are, therefore, not directly comparable to the foreign-born population estimates from Census 2000, ACS 2000, or the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey (C2SS)13--the latter two surveys having been controlled to Census 2000.14
The CPS instrument is currently available in both English and Spanish. When needed, Spanish speaking cases are send for CATI interviewing to a telephone facility in Tucson, Arizona.
Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP)
The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) is a national longitudinal survey of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population, primarily collecting data on the source and amount of income, labor force information, and program participation and eligibility.
The SIPP survey design is a continuous series of national panels, the duration of which has ranged from two-and-a-half to four years. Questions are asked in waves with each wave administered every four months. Each panel follows the same household across waves, as well as people who move out to form separate households after Wave 1. The sample size has ranged from approximately 14,000 to 36,700 households. (U.S. Census Bureau, December 2000)15
Since 1984, the SIPP has included a Migration History Topical Module asking respondents when they moved to their current residence, the location of any previous residence, and place of birth. For respondents born in a foreign country, questions are asked on citizenship status and year of entry. During earlier years, additional questions were asked including parents' place of birth and reasons for moving.
The migration history questions are asked once per panel of each respondent in the household ages 15 and older (during Wave 2, after four months).16 Beginning with the 1996 Panel (Wave 2) of the Migration History Topical Module, several new international migration-related questions such as immigration status, adjustment of status, and time of adjustment of status have been added.17 (See Table 4a.)
These are the only sources of such detailed international migration-related questions available from the Census Bureau. However, the sample size, considerably smaller than that of the CPS, restricts the usefulness of detailed analyses of the foreign born beyond establishing nativity and citizenship status of the respondents.
In 2001, the Bureau tested a series of questions to identify citizenship status in the core questionnaire of SIPP. The purpose was to screen for individuals not born in the United States or U.S. Island Areas (e.g., Puerto Rico and Guam), and respondents were asked questions regarding their place of birth, citizenship status and how it was obtained (e.g., birth to U.S. citizen abroad or through naturalization), and whether or not their parents were U.S. citizens at the time of their (respondent’s) birth. Many of the questions are comparable to those currently asked in the CPS. (See Table 4b.)
The SIPP instrument is currently available in both English and Spanish.18
National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)
The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) collects data on amount and distribution of illness, its effects in terms of disability and chronic impairments, and the kind of health services people receive. The sample covers approximately 71,000 households per year, with an oversampling of households with Blacks or Hispanics.
The NHIS core questionnaire includes items on place of birth, citizenship status, year of entry, and length of U.S. residence. This is the only Census Bureau survey that asks a residence duration-type question in this form.19 (See Table 5.)
In 2000, the NHIS added a Cancer Supplement including a Hispanic Acculturation section. This section includes parental nativity questions as well as several English proficiency and foreign language-related items.
Spanish translated instruments have been provided since 1998.
New York City Housing Vacancy Survey (NYCHVS)
The New York City Housing Vacancy Survey (NYCHVS) is used to determine the vacancy rate for New York City's rental stock, and to measure the quality and quantity of housing and the demographic characteristics of the city's residents.
The sample includes approximately 18,000 units selected from the 1990 census address list for New York City. The survey is conducted every three years. (U.S. Census Bureau, February 2002)
As for international migration-related items, the NYCHVS questionnaire previously included only place of birth and parental nativity. The 1999 NYCHVS survey introduced additional questions including year of entry, "immigrant status20," and year of move into New York City. These questions continue to be asked of each householder in the 2002 survey. (See Table 6.)
Currently, no Spanish translation is available for this Paper and Pencil Interview (PAPI) survey.
American Housing Survey (AHS)
The American Housing Survey (AHS) collects data on the nation’s housing, including recent movers. The AHS consists of a national survey (AHS-N) and surveys of selected metropolitan areas (AHS-MS). The AHS is well-suited for analyzing the flow of households through housing.21 (U.S. Census Bureau, September 2001). The national sample covers approximately 55,000 homes and is conducted in odd-numbered years. The Metropolitan Survey (AHS-MS) is conducted in 41 metropolitan areas on a rotating basis in even-numbered years.
The AHS includes questions about reasons for moving and the location of previous residence. It should be noted, however, that the response option for foreign locations of previous residence is restricted to simply "different nation." The AHS collected place of birth, citizenship status, and year of entry information for the first time in 2001. The items (questions and response options) are similar to those found in the CPS. (See Table 7.)
Currently, no Spanish translation is available.