Immigrant Identity Project (IIP)

The Project Transnational Identities and behavior: an Ethnographic Comparison of First and Second Generation Latino Immigrants was realized under the direction of Douglas Massey and Magaly Sanchez R with funding from the Russell Sage Foundation (May 2002). The study, known in abbreviated form as the Immigrant Identity Project, was organized as a sub-project of two larger investigations: the Mexican Migration Project and the Latin American Migration Project. The project sought to conduct in-depth interviews with immigrants residing in the northeastern United States , and was originally conceived to analyze whether the construction of immigrant identity conformed to the postulates of classic assimilation theory, segmented assimilation theory, or transnational theory, and to assess whether intergroup boundaries were being blurred or brightened.

The project design called for recruiting a quota sample of first and second generation immigrants in the urban corridor that stretches from New York City through New Jersey to Philadelphia. Although New York and its suburbs in northern New Jersey are traditional immigrant gateways of long standing, Philadelphia and its suburbs in southern New Jersey only recently began to receive significant migration from Mexico, Central, and South America. Our sampling quotas were defined by the cross-classification of location (Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York), origin (Caribbean, Mexican, Central American, South American), and generation (first or second), yielding a 3x4x2 social space of 24 cells. Within each cell we sought to compile ten interviews roughly balanced between males and females, for a target of 240 interviews. We recruited young immigrants between the ages of 13 and 35 years, though we did not exclude those who fell outside these bounds.

Due to funding cuts and shortage of field interviewers, we were able to conduct interviews with only 159 first and second generation immigrants, about two-thirds of the original target. Within New Jersey we focused recruitment activities on towns and cities lying along the dense axis of urban settlement that stretches between New York and Philadelphia. Fieldwork began in Philadelphia and then moved northward through New Jersey to progressively incorporate Camden, Trenton, Princeton, New Brunswick, Newark, Kearney, and finally New York City. Within each of the two anchor cities we focused recruitment efforts widely, incorporating respondents from four of New York's five boroughs (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx) and all of Philadelphia's traditional residential areas (North Philly, South Philly, West Philly, Center City, and the Northeast). For project purposes, we considered those who were born abroad but who arrived before age 13 and grew up in the United States as part of the second generation, a class of people that Rubén Rumbaut has labeled the 1.5 generation.

Public Use Data

  • Qualitative Data. All interviews were taped and then transcribed and are presented here in their original language with minor editing and corrections and systematic masking of personal and place names as well as other identifying information. The original interviews were conducted in Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, English, or some combination of Spanish and English. The transcriptions follow the interview as it occurred in response to a semi-structured interview guide and are differentiated by whether they pertain to first or second generation respondents.
  • Quantitative Data. The interviews do not include embedded codes that were assigned to different passages using N-Vivo software. However, the results of this coding exercise are summarized in an Excel spreadsheet, which contains a rectangular file whose rows correspond to subjects and columns to specific quantitative variables and code categories. Definitions of the variables and codes are contained at the bottom of the spreadsheet.
  • Respondent Photographic Images. As an experiment in visual sociology, a 10% subsample of respondents were given two disposable cameras, one labeled "Latino" and the other labeled "American" and instructed to take them into their daily lives to take pictures of people, places, and things that seemed to them to be "Latino" and "American." This database contains the images that resulted classified by which identity respondents thought they exemplified.


  • Massey, Douglas and Magaly Sanchez-R (2010) Brokered Boundaries: Creating Immigrant Identity in Anti-Immigrant Times. ISBN 978-0-87154-579-4. Russell Sage Foundation.

Registration Required

To access these datasets, please login or register as a user of the data archive.