Asian Americans at a Naturalization Ceremony in Los Angeles Sept, 2011. Photo: Nalea J. Ko/ Pacific Citizen, click to enlarge

Asians are Fastest-Growing Race Group of US Population; Filipino and Vietnamese Among Top Four

ASEAN The Mekong Philippines

People of Asian descent grew faster than any race group in the United States, with Filipinos and Vietnamese in the top four ethnic groups, according to a new report released by the US Census Bureau. A total of 17.3 million people identified themselves as either Asian alone (14.7 million) or Asian-in-combination (2.6 million) in the 2010 census, out of a total population of 308.7 million.

In total, 5.6 percent of the US population identified as Asian or Asian-in-combination, an increase of 46 percent over the last decade. The Asian and Asian American population increased by at least 30 percent in every US state except Hawai’i, which in 2010 had a population that was 57 percent from Asian descent, the highest in the country.

Filipinos were the largest Southeast Asian group, at 3.4 million, an increase of 44 percent since 2000, and second only to Chinese among all Asian groups. Vietnamese came in fourth with 1.7 million people, an increase of 42 percent over 2000, and ahead of Korean and Japanese ethnic groups. And data from the Department of Homeland Security shows that in the last decade, people born in the Philippines were the third largest group that became naturalized US citizens, behind Mexico and India; Vietnam ranked fifth. Likewise, people born in the Philippines ranked fourth in the number of recipients of Legal Permanent Residence cards or “Green Cards”, behind Mexico, China, and India, with Vietnam seventh.

Asian as Percentage of US County Population 2010 Image: US Census Bureau

Today, Filipinos are the largest Asian group in ten states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, and Wyoming. Filipino American author Thelma Buchholt, in her book Filipinos in Alaska: 1788-1958, writes that the first Filipino, a merchant seaman, arrived in Alaska in 1788, almost a century before the territory was acquired from Russia. Today, the thriving Filipino community in Alaska is evident across the state’s economy including “military bases, canneries, oil refineries, hospitals, retail stores, and government and nonprofit offices,” according to New America Media. In recent Congressional testimony on the US-Philippines relationship, US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell stated that “Our relationship is enriched by the presence in the United States of over four million Filipinos and Filipino Americans and in the Philippines by over 150,000 Americans.”

The Vietnamese population is the largest Asian group in five states: Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Immigration from Vietnam peaked during the Vietnam War, with many Vietnamese attracted to the southern Gulf States of Louisiana and Mississippi. One central attraction to these southern states was the opportunity to continue their livelihood of fishing and boat building in climates similar to those that they left behind, according to the websites Louisiana’s Living Traditions and Mississippi History Now.

Population Growth for Select Southeast Asian Groups 2000-2010. Data Source: US Census Bureau

Individuals identifying themselves as Burmese increased by 499 percent in the last decade, up from 16,720 in 2000 to 100,200 in 2010, the largest increase for any grouping from Southeast Asia. Singaporeans represented the next highest increase, up from 2,400 to 5,300, followed by Thai (from 150,000 to 238,000) and Indonesian (from 63,000 to 95,000).