10 Lesser Known Facts About America's Asian-origin Poeple

By Ellen Kershner on June 9 2020 in Society

A group of friends from diverse ethnic backgrounds in America. Image credit: DisobeyArt/Shutterstock.com
A group of friends from diverse ethnic backgrounds in America. Image credit: DisobeyArt/Shutterstock.com
  • Asian-Americans are no strangers to mistreatment at the hands of others, including the recent spate of hate crimes.
  • Asian-Americans are the fastest growing major ethnic or racial group in the United States
  • Seven out of ten U.S. Asians aged five and up speak English well.
  • Asian-origin groups in the U.S. are made up of a larger percentage of recent immigrants than other populations.
  • Close to half of Asian-origin groups in the U.S. live in the western portion of the country

Millions of people around the world are affected by discrimination, racism, and injustice. The tides may be turning in the United States, as huge protests are underway to balance the scales towards more equality for all races.

Asian-Americans are no strangers to mistreatment at the hands of others, including the recent spate of hate crimes.  They are also the fastest growing major ethnic or racial group in the United States. According to Pew Research, more than 20 million were living here in 2019, with the great majority having roots traceable to 19 main groups from the Indian subcontinent, East Asia, and Southeast Asia from diverse counties including Taiwan, Iraq, and Nepal. Here some more facts:

10. Immigration Trends

Post-1965 immigrations account for 25 percent of all the Asian-origin groups currently living here. Fifty-nine percent of today’s U.S. Asian population was born in other countries. Amongst young Asian adults, this number rises to 73 percent. Various groups of Asian immigrants arrived here in different numbers at different times, so the percentages are not the same amongst these groups. Japanese immigrants started arriving in the U.S. during the 19th century in Hawaii to work on plantations, so they have been here longer. Bhutanese refugees arrived in the U.S. in the more recent past, and close to 92 percent of them are foreign born.

9. English-Speakers

Non-English speakers taking classes at a language school. Image credit: Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock.com
Non-English speakers taking classes at a language school. Image credit: Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock.com

Seven out of ten U.S. Asians aged five and up speak English well. Based on 2015 statistics, more than 80 percent of Japanese, Filipinos, and Indians (80 percent) spoke the language proficiently. However, only 27 percent of Bhutanese and 28 percent of Burmese living in the U.S. were skilled in speaking English. This language barrier can be difficult for all immigrants to overcome, and can prevent them from getting jobs and the services they need.

8. Income Inequality

Garment factories in Manhattan's Chinatown. Image credit: Chensiyuan/Wikimedia.org
Garment factories in Manhattan's Chinatown. Image credit: Chensiyuan/Wikimedia.org

There are wide disparities in incomes amongst Asian origin groups. In 2015, the over median annual income for Asian homes in the United States was $73,060, compared to $53,000 for all U.S. homes. Four Asian origin groups were well above this: Indians at $100,000; Filipinos at $80,000; Japanese and Sri Lankans at $74,000. The lowest averages were Burmese at $36,000 and Nepalese at $43,500.

7. Foreign-Born

As previously noted, Asian-origin groups in the U.S. are made up of a larger percentage of recent immigrants than other populations. In 2015, about six out of 10 Asians (60 percent) living in the United States were foreign born. This is much higher compared to the percentage of foreign-born Americans overall, which was 13 percent at the time.

6. Naturalization

Naturalization ceremony at Oakton High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, December 2015. Image credit: US Department of Labor/Wikimedia.org
Naturalization ceremony at Oakton High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, December 2015. Image credit: US Department of Labor/Wikimedia.org

Overall numbers show that 58 percent of Asian immigrants have become U.S. citizens. The naturalization rates do vary widely, and reflect the number of years that immigrants have lived here. Beginning the in the 1970s, large numbers of Hmong and Vietnamese came to this country. It therefore follows that the highest percentages for naturalization were for Vietnamese and Hmong immigrants, at 75 percent and 77 percent, respectively. Bhutanese immigrants began arriving here in larger numbers as refugees in 2008 and afterwards. Ninety-eight percent of this group has been here for not more than 10 years, and they represent the lowest percentage of naturalized citizens, at six percent.

5. The Medical Field

Asian Americans make up a significant percentage of America's healthcare professionals. Image credit: XiXinXing/Shutterstock.com
Asian Americans make up a significant percentage of America's healthcare professionals. Image credit: XiXinXing/Shutterstock.com

Although an exact number is uncertain, Asian-origin Americans make up approximately 5.9 percent of the United States population. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges though, among active physicians, 17.1 percent identified themselves as Asian. This is a high number compared to other races and ethnicities; 76.5 percent of the population is white, and 56.2 percent of the physicians in the study were of this race.

Forbes also stated that overall, approximately 17 percent of doctors and 10 percent of nurses have Asian roots. Asian descent Americans and Asians around the rest of the globe are also playing large parts in the fight for find a vaccine to rid the word of COVID-19.

4. Education

A happy Asian-origin female with a US degree. Image credit: Leolintang/Shutterstock.com
A happy Asian-origin female with a US degree. Image credit: Leolintang/Shutterstock.com

Approximately 50 percent of Asian-origin Americans aged 25 and up had bachelor’s degrees in 2015. This was a higher percentage than other ethnicities and races, though it too varied by group of origin. Those most likely to have these degrees were of Mongolian, Malaysian, and Indian roots. Less than 20 percent of Hmong, Bhutanese, Laotians, and Cambodians had bachelor’s degrees. One reason for the lower numbers is that certain groups such as Malaysians or Indians were more likely to already have bachelor’s degrees when they arrive here.

3. Poverty Statistics

Overall, Asians were less likely to be living in property (12.1 percent) than the rest of the U.S. population (15.1 percent) in 2015. Again, there were discrepancies between the different Asian subgroups. Out of the 19, the highest groups living in poverty were Burmese (35 percent), Bhutanese (33.3 percent), and Hmong (28.3 percent). The lowest poverty rates were Filipino (7.5 percent), Indian (7.5 percent) and Japanese (8.4 percent).

In 2018, the Asian American Federation (AAF) published “Hidden in Sight: Asian Poverty in New York City.” It focused on the Asian working poor segment of the city, who face economic, linguistic, and educational barriers to finding good-paying jobs and careers. The study found that the numbers of Asians who were living in poverty in NYC increased from 170,000 in 2000 to 245,000 in 2015, a rise of 44 percent. These rates were higher for more recent Asian immigrants; one out of four had been in the country for 10 years or less. New York City has the largest Chinese-American population of any city in the U.S., this number is estimated to be in the neighborhood of 573,000.

2. Home Ownership

Asian-Americans have lower home ownership percentages than the general United States public overall. These two numbers came in at 57 percent versus 65 percent; these are from 2015 though, and for Asians it increased from 53 percent back in 2000. The highest percentages for Asian-headed households were Japanese at 63 percent and Vietnamese at 65 percent. However, only 24 percent of Nepalese and 33 percent of Burmese owned their own homes in 2015.

1. States of Residence

Crowd at the Philippine Independence Day Parade in New York City.
Crowd at the Philippine Independence Day Parade in New York City.

Close to half of Asian-origin groups in the U.S. live in the western portion of the country; U.S. Census data from 2016 to 2018 showed this percentage to be 45 percent. Out of these, 31 percent were in California. Homesnacks.net listed these 10 California cities as having the largest Asian populations within the state for 2020. The website also reported that 67.66 of the people living in Cupertino identified as Asian.

  1. Cupertino 
  2. Milpitas 
  3. Monterey Park 
  4. Walnut 
  5. Temple City 
  6. Arcadia 
  7. Rosemead 
  8. Cerritos 
  9. San Gabriel 
  10. San Marino

About 23 percent of Asian-origin Americans were living in the South, with 20 percent in the Northeast, and 12 percent in the Midwest.  The largest Asians populations resided in the states of Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Nevada, and Washington.

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