Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS), 1991-2006 (ICPSR 20520)

Principal Investigator(s): Portes, Alejandro, Princeton University; Rumbaut, Rubén G., University of California-Irvine


Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS) was designed to study the adaptation process of the immigrant second generation which is defined broadly as United States-born children with at least one foreign-born parent or children born abroad but brought at an early age to the United States. The original survey was conducted with large samples of second-generation immigrant children attending the 8th and 9th grades in public and private schools in the metropolitan areas of Miami/Ft. Lauderdale in Florida and San Diego, California. Conducted in 1992, the first survey had the purpose of ascertaining baseline information on immigrant families, children's demographic characteristics, language use, self-identities, and academic attainment. The total sample size was 5,262. Respondents came from 77 different nationalities, although the sample reflects the most sizable immigrant nationalities in each area. Three years later, corresponding to the time in which respondents were about to graduate from high school, the first follow-up survey was conducted. Its purpose was to examine the evolution of key adaptation outcomes including language knowledge and preference, ethnic identity, self-esteem, and academic attainment over the adolescent years. The survey also sought to establish the proportion of second-generation youths who dropped out of school before graduation. This follow-up survey retrieved 4,288 respondents or 81.5 percent of the original sample. Together with this follow-up survey, a parental survey was conducted. The purpose of this interview was to establish directly characteristics of immigrant parents and families and their outlooks for the future including aspirations and plans for the children. Since many immigrant parents did not understand English, this questionnaire was translated and administered in six different foreign languages. In total, 2,442 parents or 46 percent of the original student sample were interviewed. During 2001-2003, or a decade after the original survey, a final follow-up was conducted. The sample now averaged 24 years of age and, hence, patterns of adaptation in early adulthood could be readily assessed. The original and follow-up surveys were conducted mostly in schools attended by respondents, greatly facilitating access to them. Most respondents had already left school by the time of the second follow-up so they had to be contacted individually in their place of work or residence. Respondents were located not only in the San Diego and Miami areas, but also in more than 30 different states, with some surveys returned from military bases overseas. Mailed questionnaires were the principal source of completed data in this third survey. In total, CILS-III retrieved complete or partial information on 3,613 respondents representing 68.9 percent of the original sample and 84.3 percent of the first follow-up.Relevant adaptation outcomes measured in this survey include educational attainment, employment and occupational status, income, civil status and ethnicity of spouses/partners, political attitudes and participation, ethnic and racial identities, delinquency and incarceration, attitudes and levels of identification with American society, and plans for the future.

Access Notes

  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.


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Study Description


Portes, Alejandro, and Rubén G. Rumbaut. Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS), 1991-2006. ICPSR20520-v2. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2012-01-23.

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This study was funded by:

  • Russell Sage Foundation
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
  • Spencer Foundation
  • National Science Foundation

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    career choice, citizenship, cultural identity, cultural traditions, cultural values, education, educational environment, employment, ethnic identity, family background, family history, family relationships, family size, family structure, friendships, household composition, household income, immigration, immigration status, income, job history, job satisfaction, neighborhood characteristics, neighborhood conditions, occupational status, personal income, public assistance programs, self concept, self esteem, social networks, social services, socioeconomic status, welfare services

Geographic Coverage:    California, Florida, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, San Diego, United States

Time Period:   

  • 1991--2006

Date of Collection:   

  • 1991--2006

Unit of Observation:    individual

Universe:    Immigrant second generation children born in the United States with at least one foreign-born parent, or children born abroad but brought to the United States at an early age.

Data Type(s):    survey data


Sample:    CILS followed a sample of over 5,200 children of immigrants from early adolescence to early adulthood, interviewing them at three key points of their life cycle: in junior high school, at average age 14, just prior to high school graduation (or dropping out of school), at average age 17, at the beginning of their work careers (or continuing schooling), at average age 24. Each sample wave retrieved approximately 85 percent of the preceding one. The third wave produced data on 3,564 respondents or 68 percent of the original sample.

Time Method:    Longitudinal

Mode of Data Collection:    face-to-face interview, paper and pencil interview (PAPI)


Original ICPSR Release:   2007-10-04

Version History:

  • 2012-01-23 Variable naming convention detail was added to the updated codebook.
  • 2011-12-20 New covers were added to the documentation.
  • 2010-08-19 Minor edits were made to some variable labels and question text.
  • 2008-01-07 Minor edits were made to the metadata, and additional text describing the third survey, CILS-III, has been included.
  • 2007-10-18 Variable naming convention detail was added to the codebook.

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