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About Foreign Born

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Foreign-Born Population

The foreign-born population is composed of anyone who is not a U.S. citizen at birth. This includes persons who have become U.S. citizens through naturalization. Everyone else is counted among the native-born population, which comprises anyone who is a U.S. citizen at birth, including people born in the United States, Puerto Rico, a U.S. Island Area (Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), or abroad to a U.S. citizen parent or parents.

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Nativity status

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

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Foreign born

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 unauthorized migrants.

The Census Bureau collects data from all foreign born who participate in its censuses and surveys, regardless of legal status. Thus, unauthorized migrants are included in Census Bureau estimates of the total foreign-born population. However, it is not possible to tabulate separate estimates of unauthorized migrants or any other legal status category.

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Native born

The 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 (Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or the U.S. Virgin Islands), or abroad of a U.S. citizen parent or parents.

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Generational status: first, second, and third-and-higher generations

The 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-and-higher generations. The first generation is composed of individuals who are foreign-born. The second generation refers to those with at least one foreign-born parent. The third-and-higher generation includes individuals with two U.S. native parents.

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Data on parental place of birth

The Current Population Survey’s 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. These data are used to determine generational status.

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Data on legal immigration categories and status

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 immigration enforcement actions. It also provides estimates of the unauthorized immigrant population in the United States.

The Census Bureau collects and publishes survey data on characteristics of foreign-born residents of the United States such as country of birth, U.S. citizenship status, and year of entry into the United States.

The Census Bureau does not collect data on the legal status of the foreign born.

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Popular Tables

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Contact Us

For additional information, please visit ask.census.gov. For assistance, please contact the Census Call Center at 1-800-923-8282 (toll free).

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