Immigrant Terms and New Americans: Are you first, second or “1.5” generation?

California coast from airplane web

Above the California coast and the blue Pacific ocean

Are you “first-generation” or “second-generation”?

If your family immigrated to the United States, you have most likely been asked this question.  Or if you speak with a clear American accent, you may be asked “So…when did your parents immigrate to the U.S.?”.

The term “first-generation” usually mean the first among the family who immigrated to the new country.

For example, here in Monterey County and the Salinas Valley, I’ve met many “second-generation” Filipino-Americans.  Their parents (the first-generation) immigrated to the U.S. as adults and settled here.

Steinbeck Exhibit Wall 4Note: See my post about the “Filipino Voices” exhibit at the National Steinbeck Center and the Asian Cultural Experience website to get a sense of the history of Filipinos and the Asian-American community in this part of California.

The 1 point 5 GenerationDid you know there is also a name for another category of  immigrants… the “1.5 generation”?

My younger sister and I fit this category, because we immigrated to the U.S. when I was 16, and when she was 14.

My older sister was already an adult and married when she immigrated to the U.S from the Philippines a year ahead of us, so she is considered a “first-generation” immigrant, and her daughter Stephanie is a 2nd generation Filipino-American (though she identifies as an “American” with 1/2 Filipino ancestry).

IMG

My older sister — the “first-generation” immigrant — pictured at right was 19 and married when she immigrated to the United States. She had already lived in two U.S. states by the time I took this photo in New Jersey, with my then 15-year old younger sister at left (the “1.5-generation” immigrant). Both are now American citizens. Photo taken the fall of 1980 with my first SLR camera, a Minolta, at the time when you actually had to buy a roll of black and white “film”.

The definition for the “1.5 generation” fits my younger sister and I very well. A Wikipedia article on immigrant generations defines 1.5G as:

…people who immigrate to a new country before or during their early teens. They earn the label the “1.5 generation” because they bring with them characteristics from their home country but continue their assimilation and socialization in the new country, thus being “halfway” between the 1st generation and the 2nd generation.

Their identity is thus a combination of new and old culture and tradition. Sociologist Ruben Rumbaut was among the first to use the term to examine outcomes among those arriving in the United States before adolescence.[2]

Depending on the age of immigration, the community into which they settle, extent of education in their native country, and other factors, 1.5 generation individuals will identify with their countries of origin to varying degrees. However, their identification will be affected by their experiences growing up in the new country.

1.5G individuals are often bilingual and find it easier to be assimilated into the local culture and society than people who immigrated as adults.

Many 1.5 generation individuals are bi-cultural, combining both cultures – culture from the country of origin with the culture of the new country.

For more information on this immigrant term, see the blog post by Leslie Berenstein Rojas “Gen 1.5: Where an immigrant generation fits in with information from UCLA anthropologist Kyeyoung Park.

Country Road and Fence Monterey web

Country road – North Monterey County, California

Are you or your parents 1st or 2nd generation…or does the term “1.5” fit you?

If you have Filipino ancestry and live in the U.S, do you consider yourself a Filipino-American, or refer to yourself as an American?