Asian American

Asian American
Asian American

Edward Soriano, Filipino American Rajiv Shah, Indian American Margaret Denise Quigley, Vietnamese American
Nadia Ali, Pakistani American Ellison Onizuka, Japanese American Loung Ung, Cambodian American
Seo Jae-pil, Korean American Anna May Wong, Chinese American Areeya Chumsai, Thai American

Notable Asian Americans:
Edward Soriano · Rajiv Shah
Margaret Denise Quigley
Nadia Ali · Ellison Onizuka · Loung Ung
Seo Jae-pil · Anna May Wong · Areeya Chumsai
Total population
(2010 Census)
Asian Americans

14,674,252[1] (Asians alone)
(4.8% of the U.S. population)
17,320,856 (including Multiracial Asians)[1]
(5.6% of the U.S. population)

Regions with significant populations
Hawaii, the West Coast,[2] and elsewhere across the country[3]

Commonly Asian languages and English


Agnosticism, Atheism, Buddhism, Christianity, East Asian religions, Hinduism, Indian religions, Islam and others

Asian Americans are Americans of Asian descent. The U.S. Census Bureau definition of Asians as "Asian” refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

It includes people who indicated their race(s) as "Asian" or reported entries such as "Asian Indian," "Chinese," "Filipino," "Korean," "Japanese," "Vietnamese," and "Other Asian" or provided other detailed Asian responses". They comprise 4.8% of the U.S. population alone, while people who are Asian combined with at least one other race make up 5.6%.[1]

The term Asian American was used informally by activists in the 1960s who sought an alternative to the term Oriental, arguing that the latter was derogatory and colonialist. Formal usage was introduced by academics in the early 1970s, notably by historian Yuji Ichioka, who is credited with popularizing the term.[4] Today, Asian American is the accepted term for most formal purposes, such as government and academic research, although it is often shortened to Asian in common usage.

As with other racial and ethnicity based terms, formal and common usage have changed markedly through the short history of this term. The most significant change occurred when the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 eliminated highly restrictive "national origins" quotas, designed, among other things, to restrict immigration of those of Asian racial background.[5] The new system, based on skills and family connections to U.S. residents, enabled significant immigration from every nation in Asia, which led to dramatic and ongoing changes in the Asian American population. As a result of these population changes, the formal and common understandings of what defines Asian American have expanded to include more of the peoples with ancestry from various parts of Asia. Because of their more recent immigration, new Asian immigrants also have had different educational, economic and other characteristics than early 20th century immigrants. They also tend to have different employment and settlement patterns in the United States.

As of 2008, Asian Americans had the highest educational attainment level and median household income of any racial demographic in the country, and they attained the highest median personal income overall.[6][7]



The most commonly used definition of Asian American is the US Census Bureau definition of Asian,[8] chiefly because the Census definitions determine many government classifications, notably for equal opportunity programs and measurements. People with origins in the Far East, Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent are included in the Census definition of Asia.[9] The use of a separate "Asian" category in the Census is a recent addition, beginning in 1990. Since then, the Census definitions have varied. The 2000 census divided the Asian/Pacific Islander group and created Pacific Islander ethnicities as a separate category.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "Asian person" in the United States is sometimes thought of as a person of East Asian descent.[10][11] In vernacular usage, "Asian" is often used to refer to those of East Asian descent or anyone else of Asian descent with epicanthic eyefolds.[12][13] This differs from the U.S. Census definition[8][14] and the Asian American Studies departments of many universities consider those of East, South or Southeast Asian descent with or without epicanthic eyefolds to be "Asian".[15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22] In the US Census, people who originate from the original peoples of the East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia are classified as part of the Asian race; while peoples from Siberia, Central Asia, and Western Asia are classified as "White".[23]

Before 1980, Census forms listed particular Asian ancestries as separate groups, along with White and Black or Negro.[24] Asian Americans had also been classified as "other".[25] In 1977, the federal Office of Management and Budget issued a directive requiring government agencies to maintain statistics on racial groups, including on "Asian or Pacific Islander".[26] The 1980 census marked the first classification of Asians as a large group, combining several individual ancestry groups into "Asian or Pacific Islander." By the 1990 census, Asian or Pacific Islander (API) was included as an explicit category, although respondents had to select one particular ancestry.[27][28] In the 2000 census, people reporting Middle Eastern ancestry but not reporting race are presumed to be in the white race category rather than Asian.[9]

The definition of Asian American has variations that derive from the use of the word American in different contexts. Immigration status, citizenship (by birthright and by naturalization), acculturation, and language ability are some variables that are used to define American for various purposes and may vary in formal and everyday usage.[29] For example, restricting American to include only U.S. citizens conflicts with discussions of Asian American businesses, which generally refer both to citizen and non-citizen owners.[30]

In a recent PBS interview, a panel of Asian American writers discussed how some groups include people from the Middle East in the Asian American category.[31] Asian American author Stewart Ikeda has noted, "The definition of "Asian American" also frequently depends on who's asking, who's defining, in what context, and why... the possible definitions of "Asian-Pacific American" are many, complex, and shifting... some scholars in Asian American Studies conferences suggest that Russians, Iranians, and Israelis all might fit the field’s subject of study."[32]


Census Bureau 2000, Asians in the United States.png

The demographics of Asian Americans describe a heterogeneous group of people in the United States who can trace their ancestry to one or more countries in Asia. Because Asian Americans total less than 5% of the entire U.S. population, the diversity of the group is often disregarded in media and news discussions of "Asians" or of "Asian Americans." While there are some commonalities across ethnic sub-groups, there are significant differences among different Asian ethnicities that are related to each group's history.


In 1763, Filipinos established the small settlement of Saint Malo, Louisiana, after fleeing mistreatment aboard Spanish ships.[33] Since there were no Filipino women with them, the Manilamen, as they were known, married Cajun and Native American women.[34]

Chinese sailors first came to Hawaii in 1778,[35][36] the same year that Captain James Cook came upon the island. Many settled and married Hawaiian women. Some Island-born Chinese can claim to be 7th generation. Most Chinese, Korean and Japanese immigrants in Hawaii arrived in the 19th century as laborers to work on sugar plantations. Later, Filipinos also came to work as laborers, attracted by the job opportunities, although they were limited.[37][38]

Numerous Chinese and Japanese began immigrating to the U.S. in the mid-19th century for work, because of poor economic conditions in their home nations. Many of the immigrants worked as laborers on the transcontinental railroad. Although the absolute numbers of Asian immigrants in the late 19th century were small compared to that of immigrants from other regions, much of it was concentrated in the West, and the increase caused some Americans to fear the change represented by the growing number of Asians. This fear was referred to as the "yellow peril". The United States passed laws such as Asian Exclusion Act and Chinese Exclusion Act to sharply restrict Asian immigration.[39]

Immigration trends

Filipinos have been in the territories that would become the United States since the 16th century.[40]

There were thousands of Asians in Hawaii when it was annexed to the United States in 1898, and they all gained full US citizenship at that time.[41] The United States Supreme Court in United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898) interpreted the 14th amendment to mean that every person born in the United States, regardless of race or ancestry is a citizen of the United States.[42]

Congress passed restrictive legislation to nearly all Chinese immigration in the 1880s, which was in effect until the 1940s.[43] Japanese immigration was sharply curtailed by a gentleman's agreement brokered by President Theodore Roosevelt. The immigration restriction laws of the 1920s produced quotas for all countries, with Asian countries getting a zero quota.[44]

After World War II legislation was passed, and judicial rulings gradually increased the ability of Asian Americans to immigrate and become naturalized citizens. Immigration rapidly increased following the enactment of the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 as well as naturalization of refugees from conflicts that occurred in the late 20th century in Southeast Asia.

Notable contributions

Arts and entertainment

Asian Americans have been involved in the entertainment industry since the first half of the 19th century, when Chang and Eng Bunker (the original "Siamese Twins") became naturalized citizens.[45] Acting roles in television, film, and theater were relatively few, and many available roles were for narrow, stereotypical characters. More recently, young Asian American comedians and film-makers have found an outlet on Youtube, allowing them to gain a strong and loyal fanbase among their fellow Asian Americans.


Co-founder of Yahoo! Jerry Yang

When Asian Americans were largely excluded from labor markets in the 19th century, they started their own businesses. They have started convenience and grocery stores, professional offices such as medical and law practices, laundries, restaurants, beauty-related ventures, hi-tech companies, and many other kinds of enterprises, becoming very successful and influential in American society. They have dramatically expanded their involvement across the American economy. Asian Americans have been disproportionately successful in the hi-tech sectors of California's Silicon Valley, as evidenced by the Goldsea 100 Compilation of America's Most Successful Asian Entrepreneurs.[46]

Compared to their population base, Asian Americans today are well represented in the professional sector and tend to earn higher wages.[47] The Goldsea compilation of Notable Asian American Professionals show that many have come to occupy high positions at leading U.S. corporations, including a surprising number as Chief Marketing Officers.[48]

Asian Americans have made major contributions to the American economy. Fashion designer and mogul Vera Wang, who is famous for designing dresses for high-profile celebrities, started a clothing company, named after herself, which now offers a broad range of luxury fashion products. An Wang founded Wang Laboratories in June 1951. Amar Bose founded the Bose Corporation in 1964. Charles Wang founded Computer Associates, later became its CEO and chairman. Jen-Hsun Huang co-founded the NVIDIA corporation in 1993. Jerry Yang co-founded Yahoo! Inc. in 1994 and became its CEO later. Andrea Jung serves as Chairman and CEO of Avon Products. Vinod Khosla was a founding CEO of Sun Microsystems and is a general partner of the prominent venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Steve Chen and Jawed Karim were co-creators of YouTube, and were beneficiaries of Google's $1.65 billion acquisition of that company in 2006. In addition to contributing greatly to other fields, Asian Americans have made considerable contributions in science and technology in the United States, in such prominent innovative R&D regions as Silicon Valley and The Triangle.

Government and politics

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jinal in 2011.
Daniel Inouye's Official Photo in 2009.

Asian Americans have a high level of political incorporation in terms of their actual voting population. Since 1907, Asian Americans have been active at the national level and have had multiple officeholders at local, state and national levels. As of February 2011 the highest ranking Asian American is Senator and President Pro Tempore Daniel Inouye. As of September 2011, George Ariyoshi, governor of Hawaii from 1974-1986, Ben Cayetano, governor of Hawaii from 1994-2002, Gary Locke, governor of Washington State from 1996-2004, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, and Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina are the only Asian Americans to hold the office of state governor in the United States.


Fareed Zakaria, journalist and author

Connie Chung was one of the first Asian-American national correspondents for a major TV news network, reporting for CBS in 1971. She later co-anchored the CBS Evening News from 1993 to 1995. At ABC, Ken Kashiwahara began reporting nationally in 1974. In 1990, Sheryl WuDunn, a foreign correspondent in the Beijing Bureau of The New York Times, became the first Asian-American to win a Pulitzer Prize. Ann Curry joined NBC News as a reporter in 1990, later becoming prominently associated with The Today Show in 1997. Carol Lin is perhaps best known for being the first to break the news of 9-11 on CNN. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is currently CNN's chief health correspondent. Lisa Ling, a former co-host on The View, now provides special reports for CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as hosting National Geographic Channel's Explorer. Fareed Zakaria, a naturalised Indian-born immigrant, is a prominent journalist, and author specialising in international affairs. He is the editor of Newsweek International, and the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN. Recently (As of 2009), Juju Chang, James Hatori, John Yang, Veronica De La Cruz, Michelle Malkin, Betty Nguyen, and Julie Chen have become familiar faces on television news. John Yang won a Peabody Award. Alex Tizon, a Seattle Times staff writer, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997.


Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki; previously, as the 4-star Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Shinseki became the highest ranked Asian American ever in the military.

Since the War of 1812 Asian Americans have served and fought on behalf of the United States. Serving in both segregated and non-segregated units until the desegregation of the US Military in 1948, 31 have been awarded the nation's highest award for combat valor, the Medal of Honor. Twenty-one of these were conferred upon members of the mostly Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of World War II, the most highly decorated unit of its size in the history of the United States Armed Forces.[49]

Science and technology

Tsung Dao Lee sitting in a chair, his legs crossed, a blackboard with mathematical equations in the background.
Tsung-Dao Lee, Nobel laureate in physics; youngest laureate since World War II.

Asian Americans have made many prominent and notable contributions to Science and Technology. Chien-Shiung Wu was known to many scientists as the "First Lady of Physics" and played a pivotal role in experimentally demonstrating the violation of the law of conservation of parity in the field of particle physics. Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang received the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics for theoretical work demonstrating that the conservation of parity did not always hold and later became American citizens. Har Gobind Khorana shared the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in genetics and protein synthesis. Samuel Chao Chung Ting received the 1976 Nobel Prize in physics for discovery of the subatomic particle J/ψ. The Chinese American mathematician Shing-Tung Yau won the Fields Medal in 1982 and Terence Tao won the Fields Medal in 2006. The geometer Shiing-Shen Chern received the Wolf Prize in Mathematics in 1983. Andrew Yao was awarded the Turing Award in 2000. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar shared the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics and had the Chandra X-ray Observatory named after him. In 1984, Dr. David D. Ho first reported the "healthy carrier state" of HIV infection, which identified HIV-positive individuals who showed no physical signs of AIDS. Charles J. Pedersen shared the 1987 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his methods of synthesizing crown ethers. Steven Chu shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for his research in cooling and trapping atoms using laser light. Daniel Tsui shared the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics in 1998 for helping discover the fractional Quantum Hall effect. In 2008, biochemist Roger Tsien won the Nobel in Chemistry for his work on engineering and improving the green fluorescent protein (GFP) that has become a standard tool of modern molecular biology and biochemistry. Yoichiro Nambu received the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the consequences of spontaneously broken symmetries in field theories. In 2009, Charles K. Kao was awarded Nobel Prize in Physics "for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibres for optical communication" and Venkatraman Ramakrishnan won the prize in Chemistry "for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome". Ching W. Tang was the inventor of the Organic light-emitting diode and Organic solar cell and was awarded the 2011 Wolf Prize in Chemistry for this achievement. Min Chueh Chang was the co-inventor of the combined oral contraceptive pill and contributed significantly to the development of in vitro fertilisation at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology. Michio Kaku has popularized science and has appeared on multiple programs on television and radio.


An image of LTC Onizuka with a model of the Challenger shuttle and astronaut helmet on a desk in front of him. The United States Flag, and a smoky blue backdrop in the background.
Lieutenant Colonel Onizuka, the first Asian American, and third Asian, in space.

LTC Ellison Onizuka became the first Asian American (and third person of Asian descent) when he made his first space flight aboard STS-51-C in 1985. Onizuka later died aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. Taylor Gun-Jin Wang became the first person of Chinese ethnicity and first Chinese American, in space in 1985; he has since been followed by Leroy Chiao in 1994, and Ed Lu in 1997. In 1986, Franklin Chang-Diaz became the first Asian Latin American in space. Eugene H. Trinh became the first Vietnamese American in space in 1992. In 2001, Mark L. Polansky, a Jewish Korean American, made his first of three flights into space. In 2003, Kalpana Chawla became the first Indian American in space, but died aboard the ill fated Space Shuttle Columbia. She has since been followed by CDR Sunita Williams in 2006.


Figure skater Michelle Kwan

Wataru Misaka broke the NBA color barrier when he played for the New York Knicks in the 1947–48 season. The next Asian-American NBA player was Raymond Townsend, who played for the Golden State Warriors and Indiana Pacers from 1978 to 1982. Erik Spoelstra is a Filipino-Dutch-Irish who became the youngest coach ever in NBA history. He is currently the head coach of the Miami Heat.[50] Current Kansas Jayhawks coach Kurtis Townsend is Raymond Townsend's brother. After a distinguished collegiate basketball career at Harvard University, point guard Jeremy Lin signed with the NBA's Golden State Warriors in 2010. In doing so, he became the first Asian-American to play in the NBA in over 50 years.[51]

Asian Americans first made an impact in Olympic sports in the late 1940s and in the 1950s. Sammy Lee became the first Asian American to earn an Olympic Gold Medal, winning in platform diving in both 1948 and 1952. Victoria Manalo Draves won both gold in platform and springboard diving in the 1948. Harold Sakata won a weightlifting silver medal in the 1948 Olympics, while Japanese Americans Tommy Kono (weightlifting), Yoshinobu Oyakawa (100-meter backstroke), and Ford Konno (1500-meter freestyle) each won gold and set Olympic records in the 1952 Olympics. Konno won another gold and silver swimming medal at the same Olympics and added a silver medal in 1956, while Kono set another Olympic weightlifting record in 1956. Also at the 1952 Olympics, Evelyn Kawamoto won two bronze medals in swimming.

Amy Chow was a member of the gold medal women's gymnastics team at the 1996 Olympics; she also won an individual silver medal on the uneven bars. Gymnast Mohini Bhardwaj won a team silver medal in the 2004 Olympics. Hapa Bryan Clay won the decathlon gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, the silver medal in the 2004 Olympics, and was the sport's 2005 world champion.

Michael Chang the youngest ever winner of a Grand Slam tennis tournament

Since Tiffany Chin won the women's US Figure Skating Championship in 1985, Asian Americans have been prominent in that sport. Kristi Yamaguchi won three national championships, two world titles, and the 1992 Olympic Gold medal. Michelle Kwan has won nine national championships and five world titles, as well as two Olympic medals (silver in 1998, bronze in 2002).

In football, Asian Americans' contributions are also gaining notice. Wally Yonamine played professionally for the San Francisco 49ers in 1947. Norm Chow is currently the offensive coordinator for UCLA after a short stint with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, after 23 years of coaching other college teams, including four successful years as offensive coordinator at USC. Dat Nguyen was an NFL middle linebacker who was an all-pro selection in 2003. In 1998, he was named an All-American and won the Bednarik Award as well as the Lombardi Award, while playing for Texas A&M. Hines Ward is an NFL wide receiver who was the MVP of Super Bowl XL.

Michael Chang was a top-ranked tennis player for most of his career. He won the French Open in 1989. Tiger Woods, who is of mostly Asian descent, is the most successful golfer of his generation and one of the most famous athletes in the world. Eric Koston is one of the top street skateboarders and placed first in the 2003 X-Games street competition.

There are several top ranked Asian American mixed martial artists. BJ Penn is a former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion. Cung Le is a former Strikeforce middleweight champion. Ben Henderson is the former WEC lightweight champion.

Cultural influence

Health and medicine

Origins of foreign doctors in the US[52]
Country of Origin Percentage of Total IMGs in US
India 19.9% (47,581)
Philippines 8.8% (20,861)
Pakistan 4.8% (11,330)
South Korea 2.1% (4,982)
China 2.0% (4,834)
Origins of foreign dentists in the US[53]
Country of Origin Percentage of Total IDGs in US
India 25.8
Philippines 11.0
China 3.2
South Korea 3.2
Pakistan 2.9
Origins of foreign nurses in the US[54]
Country of Origin Percentage of Total INGs in US
Philippines 50.2
India 1.3
Hong Kong 1.2
Israel 1.0
South Korea 1.0

Asian immigrants are also changing the American medical landscape through increasing number of Asian medical practitioners in this country. Beginning in the 1960s and 70s, the US government invited a number of foreign physicians particularly from India and the Philippines to address the acute shortage of physicians in rural and medically-underserved urban areas. The trend in importing foreign medical practitioners, however, became a long-term, chronic solution as US medical schools failed to produce enough physicians to match the increasing American population. Amid decreasing interest in medicine among American college students due to high rates job dissatisfaction, loss of morale, stress, and lawsuits, Asian American immigrants maintained a supply of healthcare practitioners for millions of Americans. It is well documented that Asian American international medical graduates including highly skilled guest workers using the J1 Visa program for medical workers, tend to serve in health professions shortage areas (HPSA) and specialties that are not filled by US medical graduates especially primary care and rural medicine.[55][56] Thus, Asian American immigrants play a key role in averting a medical crisis in the US.

A lasting legacy of Asian American involvement in medicine is the forcing of US medical establishment to accept minority medical practitioners. One could speculate that the introduction of Asian physicians and dentists to the American society could have triggered an acceptance of other minority groups by breaking down stereotypes and encouraging trust.[57]

Traditional Asian concepts and practices in health and medicine have attracted greater acceptance and are more widely adopted by American doctors. India’s Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine (which also includes acupuncture) are two alternative therapy systems that have been studied and adopted to a great extent. For instance, in the early 1970s the US medical establishment did not believe in the usefulness of acupuncture. Since then studies have proven the efficacy of acupuncture for different applications, especially for treatment of chronic pain.[58] It is now covered by many health insurance plans.

Meditation and mindfulness practices are taught in mainstream medical schools and hospitals. Increasingly they are seen as part of a holistic approach to health. Doctors and hospitals treating diseases such as heart disease and cancer have adopted meditation as a practice recommended for patients.

Herbalism and massage therapy (from Ayurveda) are sweeping the spas across America. Meditation and yoga (from India) have also been widely adopted by health spas, and spiritual retreats of many religious bases. They are also part of the spiritual practice of the many Americans who are not affiliated with a mainline religious group.


Educational Attainment: 2004 (25 and Older)[59][60][61]
Ethnicity High School
Graduation Rate
Bachelor's Degree
or More
Filipinos 90.8% 47.9%
Indians 90.2% 67.9%
Bangladeshis 84.5% 41.9%
Pakistanis 87.4% 60.9%
Chinese 95.8% 70.2%
Japanese 93.4% 43.7%
Koreans 90.2% 50.8%
Vietnamese 92.2% 55.2%
Total US Population 83.9% 27.0%

Among America's major racial categories, Asian Americans have the highest educational qualifications. This varies, however, for individual ethnic groups. Dr. C.N. Le, Director of the Asian & Asian American Studies Certificate Program at the University of Massachusetts, writes that although 42% of all Asian American adults have at least a college degree, Vietnamese Americans have a degree attainment rate of only 16% while Laotians and Cambodians only have rates around 5%.[62] According to the US Census Bureau, while the high school graduation rate for Asian Americans is on par with those of other ethnic groups, 48% of Asian Americans have attained at least a bachelor's degree as compared with the national average of 27%, and 29% for non-Hispanic Whites. Indian Americans have some of the highest education rates, with nearly 68% having attained at least a bachelor's degree.

Religious trends

Some scholars see a movement of religions, as Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism have moved into American culture[citation needed], and Christianity has been adopted by more East Asians. Most Filipinos are also already Christian (Catholic or other denominations)[63] when they immigrate. Many South Koreans, especially, are already Christian[64] when they immigrate to the US, and hence most Korean Americans are born into Christian families. Besides Indian religions, there has also been strong influence of the American adoption of yoga, meditation, Ayurveda and vegetarianism from India.[citation needed]

Many Asians Americans are also Muslim with ancestry from Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and China[65][66][67][68] among others. Eight percent of Asian Americans are Muslim[69] and they represent 33% of the American Muslim population.[70]

Beats on the West Coast were among those attracted to Buddhism in the 1950s. American Buddhist groups established then and in the 1970s have built temples, ordained numerous American Buddhist monks, and taught generations of new practitioners. Buddhist concepts and practices such as mindfulness have penetrated mainstream culture.

While much West Coast practice was first influenced by Japanese Zen Buddhism, which originated in China (known as Ch'an Buddhism), more recent generations throughout the country have been influenced also by Vietnamese and Tibetan Buddhist monks who have lived and taught in the West.

As a historic first, President Barack Obama appointed two Indian Americans, Eboo Patel (a Muslim) and Anju Bhargava (a Hindu), to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The Advisory Council is part of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and is composed of religious and secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds.

Cultural issues

Illegal immigration

As of 2009, Filipinos and Indians accounted for the highest number of illegal immigrants for "Asian-Americans" with an estimated illegal population of 270,000 and 200,000 respectively. Indian Americans are also the fastest growing illegal immigrant group in the United States, an increase in illegal immigration of 125% since 2000.[71][72] This is followed by Koreans (200,000) and Chinese (120,000).[73]

Model minority

Percent of households with six figure incomes and individuals with incomes in the top 10%, exceeding $77,500.

Asian Americans are sometimes characterized as a model minority because the culture encourages a strong work ethic, a respect for elders, a high degree of professional and academic success, a high valuation of family, education and religion.[74] Statistics such as high household income and low incarceration rate,[75] low rates of many diseases and higher than average life expectancy[76] are also discussed as positive aspects of Asian Americans.

The implicit advice is that the other minorities should stop protesting and emulate the Asian American work ethic and devotion to higher education. Some critics say the depiction replaces biological racism with cultural racism, and should be dropped.[77]

This concept appears to elevate Asian Americans by portraying them as an elite group of successful, highly educated, highly intelligent, and wealthy individuals, but it can also be considered an overly narrow and overly one-dimensional portrayal of Asian Americans, leaving out other human qualities such as vocal leadership, negative emotions, risk taking, ability to learn from mistakes, and desire for creative expression. Furthermore, Asian Americans who do not fit into the model minority mold can face challenges when people's expectations based on the model minority myth do not match with reality. Traits outside of the model minority mold can be seen as negative character flaws for Asian Americans despite those very same traits being positive for the general American majority (e.g., risk taking, confidence, empowered). For this reason, some[who?] believe Asian Americans encounter a "bamboo ceiling," the Asian American equivalent of the glass ceiling in the workplace.

The model minority concept can also affect Asians' public education. By comparison with other minorities, Asians often achieve higher test scores and grades compared to other Americans.[78] Stereotyping Asian American as over-achievers can lead to harm if school officials or peers expect all to perform higher than average.[79] The very high educational attainments of Asian Americans has often been noted; in 1980, for example, 74% of Chinese Americans, 62% of Japanese Americans, and 55% of Korean Americans aged 20–21 were in college, compared to a third of the whites. The disparity at postgraduate levels is even greater, and the differential is especially notable in fields making heavy use of mathematics. By 2000, a majority of undergraduates at elite California schools such as Berkeley and Stanford were Asian American. The pattern is rooted in the pre-World War II era. Native-born Chinese and Japanese Americans reached educational parity with majority whites in the early decades of the 20th century.[80]

Those who consider Asian Americans a "model minority" fail to realize that Asian American is a broad category encompassing many different ethnic groups with different histories. When divided up by ethnicity, it can be seen that the economic and academic successes supposedly enjoyed by Asian Americans are concentrated into a few ethnic groups. Cambodians, Hmong, and Laotians (and to a lesser extent, Vietnamese), all of whose relatively low achievement rates are possibly due to their refugee status, and that they are non voluntary immigrants as other ethnicities are more likely to be.[81]

Furthermore, the model minority concept can even be emotionally damaging to Asian Americans, particularly since they are expected to live up to their peers who are part of the model minority. However, studies have shown that Asian Americans suffer from higher rates of stress, depression, mental illnesses, and suicides in comparison to other races.[82] The pressures to achieve and live up to the model minority image have taken a mental and psychological toll on Asian Americans.[83]

Race based violence

Historically Asian Americans have been the target of violence based on their race and or ethnicity. This includes, but are not limited to, such events as the Rock Springs massacre,[84] Watsonville Riots,[85][86] attacks upon Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor.,[87] and Korean American businesses targeted during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.[88] Violence against Asian Americans continue to occur based on their race,[89] with at least one source asserting that Asian Americans are the fastest growing targets of hate crimes and violence.[90]

After the September 11 attacks, Sikh Americans were targeted, being the recipient of numerous hate crimes including murder.[91][92][93][94] Other Asian Americans have also been the victim of race based violence in Brooklyn,[95] Indiana,[96] Philadelphia,[97][98] and San Francisco.[99] Furthermore, it has been reported that young Asian Americans are more likely to be a target of violence than their peers.[95][100][101]


Until the late 20th century, the term "Asian American" was adopted mostly by activists, while the average person of Asian ancestries identified with his specific ethnicity.[102] The murder of Vincent Chin in 1982 was a pivotal civil rights case, and it marked the emergence of Asian Americans as a distinct group in United States.[102][103]

Study has indicated that most non-Asian Americans do not generally differentiate between Asian Americans of different ethnicities.[104] Stereotypes of both groups are nearly identical.[105] A 2002 survey of Americans' attitudes toward Asian Americans and Chinese Americans indicated that 24% of the respondents disapprove of intermarriage with an Asian American, second only to African Americans; 23% would be uncomfortable supporting an Asian-American presidential candidate, compared to 15% for an African American, 14% for a woman and 11% for a Jew; 17% would be upset if a substantial number of Asian Americans moved into their neighborhood; 25% had somewhat or very negative attitude toward Chinese Americans in general.[106] The study did find several positive perceptions of Chinese Americans: strong family values (91%); honesty as business people (77%); high value on education (67%).[105]

There is a widespread perception that Asian Americans are not "American" but are instead "perpetual foreigners".[106][107] Asian Americans often report being asked the question, "Where are you really from?" by other Americans, regardless of how long they or their ancestors have lived in United States. Many Asian Americans are themselves not immigrants but rather born in the United States. Many are asked if they are Chinese or Japanese, an assumption based on major groups of past immigrants.[107][108]

See also


  1. ^ a b c 2010 United States Census statistics
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  3. ^
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Further reading

  • Chan, Sucheng. "The changing contours of Asian-American historiography," Rethinking History, March 2007, Vol. 11 Issue 1, pp 125–147; surveys 100+ studies of defining events; Asian diasporas; social dynamics; cultural histories.
  • Chan, Sucheng. Asian Americans: an interpretive history (Twayne, 1991). ISBN 978-0-8057-8437-4
  • Chau Trinh-Shevrin, Nadia Shilpi Islam, Mariano Jose Rey. Asian American Communities and Health: Context, Research, Policy, and Action (Public Health/Vulnerable Populations), 2009. ISBN 978-0-7879-9829-5
  • Chin, Gabriel J., Ed., U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: Reports on Asian Pacific Americans (2005) ISBN 978-0-8377-3105-6
  • Chiu, Monica, ed. Asian Americans in New England: Culture and Community (Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2009. xviii, 252 pp.) isbn 978-1-58465-794-1
  • Kwong, Peter and Dusanka Miscevic. Chinese America: The Untold Story of America's Oldest New Community (2005)
  • Lowe, Lisa Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics Durham: Duke University Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0-8223-1864-4
  • Okihiro, Gary Y. The Columbia Guide to Asian American History (Columbia UP, 2005) excerpt and text search
  • Pyong Gap Min Asian Americans: Contemporary Trends and Issues Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Pine Science Press, 2005. ISBN 978-1-4129-0556-5
  • Takaki, Ronald Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans New York: Little, Brown, 1998. ISBN 978-0-316-83130-7
  • Tamura, Eileen H. "Using the Past to Inform the Future: An Historiography of Hawaii's Asian and Pacific Islander Americans," Amerasia Journal, 2000, Vol. 26 Issue 1, pp 55–85
  • Wu, Frank H. Yellow: Race in American Beyond Black and White New York: Basic Books, 2002. ISBN 978-0-465-00639-7
  • Zia, Helen Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2000. ISBN 978-0-374-52736-5.
  • Zhou, Min and Carl L. Bankston III Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1998. ISBN 978-0-871-54995-2.


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