U.S. Department of Commerce

Foreign Born

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Foreign-Born Population Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who are the foreign born?
  2. Who are the native born?
  3. What is nativity status?
  4. What is generational status? Who is included in the first, second, and third-or-higher generations?
  5. Does the Census Bureau collect data on parental place of birth?
  6. Does the Census Bureau collect immigration data?
  7. Does the Census Bureau collect data on the legal status of the foreign born?
  8. Do the data on the foreign born collected by the Census Bureau include unauthorized immigrants?

Who are the foreign born?  back to top

The U.S. Census Bureau uses the term foreign born to refer to anyone who is not a U.S. citizen at birth. This includes naturalized U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (immigrants), temporary migrants (such as foreign students), humanitarian migrants (such as refugees and asylees), and persons illegally present in the United States.


Who are the native born?  back to top

The U.S. Census Bureau uses the terms native and native born to refer to anyone born in the United States, Puerto Rico, a U.S. Island Area (American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or the U.S. Virgin Islands), or abroad of a U.S. citizen parent or parents.


What is nativity status?  back to top

Nativity status refers to whether a person is native or foreign born.


What is generational status? Who is included in the first, second, and third-or-higher generations?  back to top

The U.S. Census Bureau uses the term generational status to refer to the place of birth of an individual or an individual’s parents. Questions on place of birth and parental place of birth are used to define the first, second, and third-or-higher generations. The first generation refers to those who are foreign born. The second generation refers to those with at least one foreign-born parent. The third-or-higher generation includes those with two U.S. native parents.


Does the Census Bureau collect data on parental place of birth?  back to top

Yes. The Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement includes two questions on parental place of birth, one on mother’s place of birth and a second on father’s place of birth.


Does the Census Bureau collect immigration data?  back to top

No. The U.S. Census Bureau collects and publishes survey data on the characteristics of the foreign born resident in the United States, such as country of birth, year of entry, citizenship status, and the size of the population. By comparison, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Immigration Statistics publishes statistics and reports based on administrative data, such as the number of persons obtaining legal permanent resident status, refugees and asylees, naturalizations, nonimmigrant admissions, and enforcement actions.


Does the Census Bureau collect data on the legal status of the foreign born?  back to top

No. However, the American Community Survey and Current Population Survey each include a question on citizenship status which can be used to divide the foreign-born population into naturalized citizens and noncitizens.


Do the data on the foreign born collected by the Census Bureau include unauthorized immigrants?  back to top

Yes. The U.S. Census Bureau collects data from all foreign born who participate in its censuses and surveys, regardless of legal status. Thus, unauthorized migrants are implicitly included in Census Bureau estimates of the total foreign-born population, although it is not possible to tabulate separate estimates of unauthorized migrants.



Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Foreign Born |  Last Revised: 2013-03-05T16:47:01.951-05:00