Term for fourth-generation Japanese Americans, originating from the Japanese language term for “fourth generation.” In the American context, the term is understood to refer to the great-grandchildren of Japanese immigrants who arrived prior to the cessation of Japanese immigration to the U.S. under the dictates of the Immigration Act of 1924. The vast majority of Yonsei were born a generation or more after the World War II, and given the boom in intermarriage rates among Japanese Americans starting in the 1960s, many are of mixed race heritage.
Other generational terms include Issei (first generation) for the immigrant generation, Nisei (second generation) for the American born children of the Nisei, and Sansei (third generation) for the children of the Nisei and parents of the Yonsei.
[Some Japanese-American institutions, such as Densho Encyclopedia, the digital educational resource on Japanese American internment and Japanese incarceration, capitalize the first letter of Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei, etc. Others capitalize the words when they are used in a generational context, but lowercase those same words when referring to an individual. For example, “Nisei soldiers of World War II” has a generational context. However, you might say, “My uncle, a nisei, served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.” Some institutions lowercase the words unless they are part of a proper noun, such as Nisei Farmers League.]