A look at Asian immigrant population trends

betty ming liu Relationships 7 Comments

The latest federal statistics on Asian immigrants are out and my jaw dropped. Wow: 25% of all the foreign-born folks in the United States are now from Asia. They are more likely to be married and living in multi-generational households. Four states have more than half a million Asian immigrant residents, including…Texas. 

With these new stats, we might have more useful data for informed discussions about where the community is going. While Census takers have their share of problems in trying to get accurate counts, they still offer us plenty of solid information for us to think about.

What follows below is a press release directly from the U.S. Census. Please note that there are three active links that will take you directly to the government reports. I am refraining from commenting on how I feel about the findings. There’s plenty of room for me to sound off in the comments section — after you’ve had a chance to read the post. 

The map link in the press release is especially fun because it breaks out where Asian immigrants live. While it’s no surprise to learn that the largest clusters are in the Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco area, what do you think of the news that the #4 top city is Chicago followed by Washington, D.C.? The maps also details country of origin (China, Korea, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Japan, Philippines, South Vietnam, Iran, etc.)

Okay, here we go:

In 2011, the foreign-born from Asia were more likely to be married compared with the total foreign-born and native-born. Households with a householder born in Asia were also more likely to be multigenerational, according to statistics from the 2011 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The percentage of foreign-born from Asia who were married was higher (65.8 percent) than for all foreign-born (58.3 percent) or for native-born (46.5 percent). In addition, multigenerational households — three or more generations living together — were more common among households with a householder born in Asia (9.4 percent) than a native-born householder (4.9 percent). Among major country-of-birth groups from Asia, households with a householder born in the Philippines (14.8 percent) or in Vietnam (12.3 percent) were the most likely to be multigenerational.

The metro areas with the largest foreign-born populations from Asia were Los Angeles and New York, both with more than 1.5 million, followed by San Francisco (707,000), Chicago (439,000) and Washington (432,000). <See graphs>. (The totals for Chicago and Washington are not statistically different from one another)

In 2011, about 13 percent of the 311.6 million people living in the United States were foreign-born, including 11.6 million from Asia, accounting for more than one-fourth (29 percent) of all foreign-born.

Today, the Census Bureau also released a brief based on the American Community Survey: The Foreign Born From Asia: 2011. This brief discusses the size, place of birth, citizenship sta­tus, educational attainment and geographic distribution of the foreign-born from Asia in the United States. Additional detailed information about specific Asian country-of-birth groups is available in the report and from the selected population profiles in American FactFinder.

Other highlights from the brief and the 2011 American Community Survey:

Countries of Birth

The five Asian countries of birth with the most foreign-born in the United States were China with 2.2 million, followed by India, 1.9 million; the Philippines, 1.8 million; Vietnam, 1.3 million; and Korea, 1.1 million. (The totals for India and the Philippines are not statistically different from one another)

Educational Attainment

In 2011, 83 percent of the 25-and-older Asia-born population had at least a high school diploma and 48 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher. By comparison, among the foreign-born 25-and-older from all other regions, 63 percent had at least a high school diploma and 19 percent had at least a bachelor’s degree.

Among the five largest Asian country-of-birth groups, the 25-and-older foreign-born from India, Korea and the Philippines had the highest percentages with at least a high school diploma, each with 92 percent. Seventy-five percent of the 25-and-older population born in India had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with the 25-and-older population born in Korea (51 percent), China (50 percent) and the Philippines (48 percent). (The totals for Korea and China are not statistically different from one another)

Naturalized Citizen

The foreign-born from Asia were more likely to be naturalized citizens (58 percent) than the foreign-born from all other world regions combined (40 percent).


Four states had more than a half-million foreign-born from Asia: California (3.7 million), New York (1.2 million), Texas (778,000) and New Jersey (593,000).

When combined, these four states accounted for more than half of all foreign-born from Asia (54 percent). California alone represented almost one-third of the total foreign-born from Asia.

The American Community Survey provides a wide range of important statistics about people and housing for every community across the country and in Puerto Rico. The results are used by everyone from retailers, homebuilders and fire departments, to town and city planners. The survey is the primary source of local estimates for most of the 40 topics it covers, such as education, occupation, language, nativity, ancestry and housing costs for even the smallest communities. Ever since Thomas Jefferson directed the first census in 1790, census questions have collected detailed characteristics of the nation’s people.


Well, that’s the whole press release. Your reactions? I would love to read your comments. There’s a ton of data here and it’s always fascinating to see what vibes with people.  :)


Comments 7

  1. Post

    Soooo interesting. You what this data tells me? Asian immigrants are coming here with very strong, traditional family values and settling in areas where they already have a sense of community. This is good and bad. Makes for insular environment for raising their kids.

    Based on what people are telling me, the children of Asian immigrant kids are being browbeaten into weekly, weekend academic prep courses — along with the dreaded push into piano and/or violin lessons. Not good. But the data gives us concrete material to use in your conversations on this and other issues. :)

  2. Asian immigration has been very good for America. Asians have revitalized many places (as a New Yorker I am thinking of Queens, for instance) that might have fallen on hard times were it not for their presence. And it certainly has not hurt the average American’s culinary experience!

  3. Asians coming to the USA have lost their culture unfortunately-I am talking about the following generations.Sad. Only when I turned around to see that I realized that the voice and pronounciations of words came from an Asian. Also bad manners followed~I notice many alos are so influenced by their peers that they become dropouts-here lies the danger-parents must be on the look out

  4. It surprises me when people (especially those living in places like New York) are surprised about the status of Asians in America today. It reinforces my belief that people are so busy being brainwashed by cliches, that they are not LOOKING around them and seeing what is actually happening and how the country has already changed and how it will continue to change. I believe it was in the eighties or nineties when there was discussion about whether America was a “melting pot” as originally believed or whether we should consider it instead, a “great mosaic”. This of course, was vis a vis blacks. Now, when we look at the fact that 37% of Asian women marry outside of their race as well as the plethora of other cultural, financial, and social indicators, it would be woefully disingenuous to say that they are part of a “mosaic”. Asians, especially the females are definitely “melting”. It is interesting to me, that the males, who I give most of the credit with driving the race as a whole to the position they currently hold, seem to kind of fade into the background. It is ironic to me that Asian countries are perceived to consider females expendable, that at least in America, Asian men are seen as with much less importance or value than the women…I could definitely be wrong though… Anyway it makes me reconsider everything I have been taught about race and about what actually drives phenomena like racism. I find that I am usually the only one in the room who sees things this way but on a number of occasions, I have seen a light bulb go off when I discuss with people.

  5. While reading this post, what I kept wondering was what do those that create the American Community Survey do with it? I read how many different groups, in turn use it (such as retailers, homebuilders and fire departments). Is it necessary to build homes or set up fire stations to know what is the ethnicity of a neighborhood’s residents? Does the completion of such surveys affect the services any of these communities receive, whether they are of Asian descent, African descent, etc? Especially because it can be difficult to have everyone accountd for in a census, what does the lack of representation result in?

    I could think that a lot of this information is interesting, but what concerns me is motive and intention with these surveys. Are they really for the benefit of the nation or do the survey findings promote segregation, division or assumptions about different groups? I think that many cultural groups may follow similar traditions or lifestyles, but will a census accurately report on those who go away from the grain? What does the census say about what Justine stated about 37% of Asian women marrying outside their race? In a changing society, it may become increasingly difficult to track such changes. My point goes to a lack of understanding (or agreement with) the intentions of the community surveys. In light of this being an election year, I am curious about the future of immigration and immigrant rights in the United States.

  6. Post

    It’s been a long day at work, and then, a parents’ meeting at my daughter’s high school on applying for financial aid. So my brain is fried! But very glad to find you all here. Thanks for commenting!

    Lee, immigration in general has been good for this country. Asian food and food from other nations as well. Thanks for pointing that out. :)

    SoothuChan, I am probably one of the rude people that you’re talking about. My language skills aren’t so great either. But is it really about “losing” your culture or finding new dimensions of yourself?

    Justine, that “melting” pot scenario was such a lot of crap. “Mosaic” is a defective concept too. How do you feel about “tossed salad”? Quite frankly, I don’t think any of the definitions are useful. And I’m not sure Asian women are melting into interracial relationships. I certainly never felt that way!

    Skye, you’re raising all the pros and cons related to the use of census data by marketers, community groups, etc. The information is used by anyone who is trying to identify a specific demographic in order to sell to them, get more government assistance funds, etc. It’s not always about race; you might be trying to figure out is more seniors are moving from rural areas into cities, etc etc.

    Every time there is a new census, we also get reports of undercounts. And no, not everyone is represented….if you’re from the Middle East or Arab, you’re going to have to write that in under “other,” which is ridiculous.

    There’s also been a continuing debate on multiracial folks and how they are counted — or not. For instance, if you’re running a community program that serves a particular race or ethnicity, you are going to want residents to describe themselves as being of that race or ethnicity so that you can document the needs of that constituency. You need this documentation for applying for funding grants, etc. So every mixed race person who could’ve identified themselves as being from your race or ethnicity is a loss for you. They don’t count towards your numbers. It’s all very political. Interesting what will happen here because the population of Americans who are biracial and multiracial is growing like mad!

    Yankee49, happy to keep blabbing, if that keeps you coming back. Thanks for dropping me a comment. And hope you will feel free to sound off too. :)

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