The Comparative Immigrant Organization Project (CIOP)

Project Description

The Comparative Immigrant Organizations Project (CIOP) studied the effects of transnational and domestic organizations on the political incorporation of Latin American immigrants in the United States by examining the views of leaders of immigrant organizations toward citizenship acquisition and political participation in the United States as well as the actual activities of these organizations in civic life and politics, both in the United States and abroad. 

This study addressed these issues through three interrelated methods:

  • Development of an inventory of all organizations created by immigrants of each target nationality in its principal areas of concentration.
  • A face-to-face survey of leaders of the largest organizations focused on the history, characteristics, goals, activities, contacts and projects (abroad and in the US) of the organizations and on the leaders' own beliefs and histories.
  • A supplementary survey of a larger sample of organizational leaders conducted via telephone and Internet on the basis of a shorter instrument.

The inventory of immigrant organizations was compiled through Internet searches after preliminary discussions with informants from each national group. This compilation was made possible by three factors:

  • The existence of specialized programs in each sending country (in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs in Colombia and Mexico) to promote ties with their immigrants and, in the case of Mexico, of specialized consular offices serving the expatriate population in its principal areas of concentration.
  • The existence of local and regional confederations of migrant organizations that bring together a sizeable number of them.
  • The fact that most established organizations have a website or, at least, an email address.

As a result of these various searches, CIOP was able to compile the first comprehensive and up-to-date inventory of Colombian, Dominican and Mexican organizations in the United States.

Following the inventory, the study proceeded in two phases, described below.

CIOP Phase I

In the first phase, CIOP consisted of a survey of 89 Colombian, Dominican, and Mexican organization leaders and additional interviews with community activists and government officials. This phase was designed to provide greater understanding of the forces creating and sustaining these organizations and to test several preliminary hypotheses about the effects of contexts of exit and modes of incorporation in receiving countries on the character of immigrant transnationalism and the bearing of these organizations on the development of sending countries and regions. 

Data Description

The dataset contains detailed measures of the extent of economic, political, and socio-cultural transnationalism, activities in the U.S. and sending countries, and characteristics of both the organizations and their members. The published files include a codebook, questionnaire, and data files in both Stata and SPSS formats.

Selected Publications

Portes, Alejandro, Cristina Escobar, and Alexandria Walton Radford. 2007. "Immigrant Transnational Organizations and Development: A Comparative Study." International Migration Review 41 (Spring): 242-281.

Spanish Translation: MIGRACION Y DESARROLLO 6 (Mexico) (2006): 3-44.

Portes, Alejandro. 2007. "Migration, Development, and Segmented Assimilation: A Conceptual Review of the Evidence." Annals of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 610 (March): 73-97.
Reprinted: S. Castles and R. Delgado-Wise, 2008. Migration and Development. Geneva: International Organization for Migration.


In the second phase of CIOP, the researchers selected the twenty largest and better-established organizations from each group for personal interviews with their leaders. This was followed by identification of an additional sample of mid-size and smaller organizations per immigrant nationality whose leaders were administered abbreviated versions of the questionnaire by telephone or asked to respond via the Internet. Leaders of immigrant organizations are natural informants about characteristics of the latter as well as the persons best placed to gauge their orientations towards or against political integration and nationalism. The questionnaires used for these surveys included items to differentiate between transnational and domestically oriented organizations as well as questions to gauge attitudes towards the preservation of home-country roots and the best means of adaptation to American society. In agreement with the issues listed previously, information was elicited on the extent of civic/political activities in the United States, similar activities abroad and number and composition of the organization's membership. 

Selected Publications

Portes, Alejandro, Cristina Escobar, and Renelinda Arana. 2008. "Bridging the Gap: Transnational and Ethnic Organizations in the Political Incorporation of Immigrants in the United States." Ethnic And Racial Studies 31 (September): 1056-1090.

Portes, Alejandro, Cristina Escobar, and Renelinda Arana. 2009. “Divided or Convergent Loyalties: The Political Incorporation Process of Latin Immigrants in the United States.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 50: 99-131.