By Andrea Louie

About Andrea Louie

Andrea Louie is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University and is also the Director of the institution’s Asian Pacific American Studies program. She is author of Chineseness across Borders: Renegotiating Chinese Identities in China and the United States (2004), which won the Social Science Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies. Her most recent book is How Chinese Are You? Adopted Chinese Youth and Their Families Negotiate Identity and Culture (forthcoming 2015).


“Generation” is often defined as the time span between birth cohorts. Correspondingly, generational divisions may be spaced according to age differences between grandparents, their children, and their grandchildren. In this sense, the length of a “generation” is determined by the age mothers give birth to their children. However, “generation” also invokes shared experiences and identities that define birth cohorts. In the context of immigration, “generation” encompasses differences between the experiences and relationships of immigrants born abroad and those born in the country of settlement.

Economic, political, and legal factors shape immigration patterns and the experiences of various generations. These factors are necessarily the products of different historical contexts. In the case of minority immigrants and their children, racism, discrimination, and exclusion—along with other forms of adjustment and incorporation—shape generational identities. Limited economic and social niches circumscribed options for early generations of Asian immigrants in the United States. In addition, laws …

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