How would I find most recent #s of 1st, 2nd and 3rd-generation immigrants in a particular US community?


How would I find most recent #s of 1st, 2nd and 3rd-generation immigrants in a particular US community? It would be good to also be able to break this down into birthplace nations (of the 1st-generation, but also of the parentage of 2nd and 3rd-generations). Thanks in advance.


There are two options, in terms of tools provided by IPUMS projects.

First, if you are looking for individual or household level data, there are a number of variables available through IPUMS USA that may be able to suit your needs. The NATIVITY, ANCESTR1, ANCESTR2, and CITIZEN variables will identify the birthplace, ancestry, and citizenship status of individuals. Furthermore, the MBPL and FBPL identifies the birthplace of an individual’s mother or father, respectively.

Second, if you are only looking for data aggregated at some geographic level, then the IPUMS NHGIS project may be best suited for your needs. Much of the same information that is available through IPUMS USA is also available here. The key difference is that since this data is aggregated, rather than microdata, it is possible to collect data on much lower levels of geography.

I hope this helps.


Thank you so much, Jeff, for your prompt helpfulness.

So, I should have said that I would be looking for current data. If I’m looking at things correctly, MBPL and FBPL have not been available for many years.

Ancestry, as you probably know, is a self-reported (self-defined) thing; and it could mean my parents (if I am a second-generation immigrant) or it could mean my best understanding of where my ancestors came from 200 years ago.

I was hoping to be able to produce the type of data found in this article by the Pew Foundation -… - except 1. more current, and 2. regarding my own diverse area (so geographically specific).

If NHGIS is still the way to go, please let me know - and if you could offer any direction regarding what topical data to choose, that would be helpful.

Finally, I have to confess that despite my efforts, I can’t figure out how to look at IPUMS data (even when I have the variables I need). I’ve tried downloading and unzipping files, then opening in excel, but it’s just numbers that I can’t decipher. (And probably this isn’t the correct method anyways - esp. excel - but I’m not clear on the instructions I’ve read multiple times. Sorry.) I don’t have any other kind of related software I’ve seen referenced. I also tried the SDA section to view online. But, for example, when I searched nativity (row) by puma (column) with one puma, “puma (xxxxx)” as a constraint, then I get a table that looks like it should be correct, but the total of the rows adds up to about 7 times the population for that puma. In all cases, I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. If it is possible for you, any clarity you can provide would be greatly appreciated.


Yes, you are correct about MBPL and FBPL not being available in recent years. An alternative option is to use the “Attach Characteristics” tool in the IPUMS data extract system. This will essentially create MBPL and FBPL by attaching the birthplace of a records’s mother and father as a new variable in the extract.

It is true that ancestry can be a bit ambiguous, but these variables basically identify what ancestory/origin the individual self-identifies with. You can read the actual questionnaire text if that will help with the interpretation of this variable.

If you are aiming to summarize aggregated data, which it looks like the Pew article does, then NHGIS may be the way to go. It will allow you to be much more specific as far as geographical areas to be identified.

Don’t worry. The IPUMS data extract system can be a bit challenging to get a hang of at first. We have a number of video tutorials to help new users like yourself get used to the tools and resources available.