Growth of the Asian American Population
2012 Report

The Pew Research Center released a report (June 19, 2012) exploring the demographic and social trends of Asian Americans which they characterize as 'the highest-income, best-educated, and fastest-growing racial group in the United States'.  Titled “The Rise of Asian Americans,” the report consolidates the findings of a comprehensive survey to a nationally representative sample of 3,511 Asian Americans in English and seven Asian languages between January 3 and March 27, 2012.

It was not that long ago when Asian Americans were primarily low-skilled, low-wage laborers who not only clustered in ethnic enclaves but were also targets of official discrimination. Large-scale immigration from Asia started with the passage of the landmark Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. In 1965 the Asian American share of the U.S. Population was about 1 percent.  Today, they make up nearly 6% of the U.S. Population.  This modern wave of immigrants from Asia has increasingly become more skilled and educated. Today, recent arrivals from Asia are nearly twice as likely as those who came three decades ago to have a college degree. 

Balanced View of the Asian American Community
There are some Asian American organizations and individuals who object to this report and question the ligitimacy of being referred to as the 'model minority'.  As an example, the Asian American Pacific Islander Policy and Research Consortium (  criticized the study and stated that "the selection of what information to present and highlight is highly biased, and the framing and interpretation of the analysis are incomplete and implicitly misleading and damaging for Asian American communities. We believe it is important to acknowledge the many accomplishments made by Asian Americans, but not at the expense of a fuller understanding of the diverse, complex and nuanced reality."   

Nevertheless, there is considerable evidence that Asian Americans are doing well in the U.S.  To have a balanced view, we should look at the results of this report in the context of how Asian Americans were once viewed, as 'perpetual foreigners', and the fact that a great number of Asian Americans do not enjoy the 'bounty' of living in the U.S. We also think it is important to reiterate the concerns of some Asian American advocates who see that the stereotypes about Asian Americans as being only a community with high levels of achievement and few challenges ignores the reality of a large number of of people who struggle to achieve economic security and equality. 

Largest Immigrant Group
Asian Americans, 74% of whom are born abroad, “recently passed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants to the United States.”[1]  Accounting for both legal and unauthorized status, about 60,000 more Asian expatriates arrived in the U.S. in 2010 than did their Hispanic counterparts (430,000 vs. 370,000).  These recent arrivals are the most highly educated immigrants in U.S. history as 61% of the adults between the ages of 24-64 have at least a bachelor’s degree.  Compared to non-Asian immigrants, Asian Americans are also three times as likely to get green cards through employer sponsorship.

When compared to all U.S. adults, Asian Americans prove distinctive as a whole. They surpass their fellow Americans in education and income. While 49% of Asian Americans have college degrees, only 28% of all U.S. adults can make the same claim.  Asian Americans also lead all U.S. adults “in median annual household income ($66,000 versus $49,800) and median household wealth ($83,500 vs. $68,529).”[2]

Self Reporting
According to the Pew survey, compared to all U.S. adults, Asian Americans “are more satisfied with their lives overall (82% vs. 75%), their personal finances (51% vs. 35%), and the general direction of the country (43% vs. 21%).” [3]

Asian Americans also place a stronger emphasis on family.  54% of Asian Americans value having a successful marriage as one of the most important things in life while only 35% of all U.S. adults share the same belief.  67% of Asian Americans impart importance in being a good parent versus 50% of the general public.  The strong emphasis on family is reflected in the statistics that describe living arrangements.  Asian Americans are more likely to be married than all U.S. adults (59% vs. 51%).  Their newborns are also “less likely than all U.S. newborns to have an unmarried mother (16% vs. 41%).” [4]  Asian Americans are also more likely live in multi-generational family households.

The Pew survey reveals that Asian Americans value hard work.  While only 58% of all Americans believe that working hard promotes social advancement, 69% of Asian Americans share that very belief.  Asian Americans are also more likely to describe their compatriots as hardworking. 

Most Asian Americans believe that the U.S. offers brighter prospects in terms of the opportunity to get ahead, freedom to express political views, treatment of the poor, conditions for raising children, freedom to practice religion, moral values of society, and strength of family ties than their countries of origin do.  Only 12% maintain that they would remain in their country of origin had they the opportunity to do it all over again.

Asian American Sub-Groups
There are many differences between Asian-American subgroups.  For example, Indian Americans exceed all other Asian-American subgroups in income and education.  Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, and “other Asian” have a higher poverty rate than do all US adults.  In fact, 15% of Korean and Vietnamese Americans as well as 14% of Chinese Americans live below the poverty line.  Asian-American subgroups also differ in their pathway into the U.S.  While roughly half of all Korean and Indian immigrants attain U.S. permanent residency through employer sponsorship, only “about a third of Japanese, a fifth of Chinese, one-in-eight Filipinos and just 1% of Vietnamese”[5] immigrants do the same.  On the other hand, the Vietnamese lead in naturalization rates.  75% of foreign-born Vietnamese have assimilated, “compared with two-thirds of Filipinos, about six-in-ten Chinese and Koreans, half of Indians and only a third of Japanese.”[6]   

Nevertheless, Asian Americans continue to feel culturally separated. Not surprisingly, these feelings are correlated with duration of time in the U.S.  Among U.S.-born Asian Americans, about two-thirds (65%) say they feel like “a typical American.” Among immigrants, just 30% say the same, and this figure falls to 22% among immigrants who have arrived since 2000.

Please note that the Pew survey relied on self-reported attitudes and behaviors. 

To learn more about the results of the Pew Research Center report, 'The Rise of Asian Americans' go to

[1] “The Rise of Asian Americans,” Pew Research Center, June, 2012.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. 



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