Interesting Facts About Asian Americans

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The United States has recognized May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month since 1992. In honor of the cultural observance, the U.S. Census Bureau has compiled a series of facts about the Asian American community. How much do you know about the diverse groups that make up this community? Test your knowledge with federal government statistics that bring the Asian American population into focus.​

Asians Across America

Asian Americans make up 17.3 million, or 5.6 percent, of the U.S. population. Most Asian Americans reside in California, home to 5.6 million of this racial group. New York comes in next with 1.6 million Asian Americans. Hawaii, however, has the largest share of Asian Americans—57 percent. The Asian American growth rate was higher than any other racial group from 2000 to 2010, according to the census. During that time, the Asian American population grew by 46 percent.

Diversity in Numbers

A wide range of ethnic groups makes up the Asian-Pacific American population. Chinese Americans stand out as the largest Asian ethnic group in the U.S with a population of 3.8 million. Filipinos come in second with 3.4 million. Indians (3.2 million), Vietnamese (1.7 million), Koreans (1.7 million) and Japanese (1.3 million) round out the major Asian ethnic groups in the U.S.

Asian languages spoken in the U.S. mirror this trend. Nearly 3 million Americans speak Chinese (second to Spanish as the most popular non-English language in the U.S.). More than 1 million Americans speak Tagalog, Vietnamese and Korean, according to the census.

Wealth Among Asian-Pacific Americans

Household income among the Asian-Pacific American community varies widely. On average, those who identify as Asian American take in $67,022 yearly. But the Census Bureau found that income rates depend on the Asian group in question. While Indian Americans have a household income of $90,711, Bangladeshis bring in significantly less—$48,471 yearly. Moreover, those Americans who identify specifically as Pacific Islanders have household incomes of $52,776. Poverty rates also vary. The Asian American poverty rate is 12 percent, while the Pacific Islander poverty rate is 18.8 percent.

Educational Attainment Among the APA Population

An analysis of educational attainment among the Asian-Pacific American population reveals intra-racial disparities as well. While there’s no major difference between Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in high school graduation rates—85 percent of the former and 87 percent of the latter have high school diplomas—there’s a huge gap in college graduation rates. Fifty percent of Asian Americans age 25 and up have graduated from college, nearly double the U.S. average of 28 percent. However, just 15 percent of Pacific Islanders have bachelor’s degrees. Asian Americans also outpace the general U.S. population and Pacific Islanders where graduate degrees are concerned. Twenty percent of Asian Americans age 25 and up have graduate degrees, compared to 10 percent of the general U.S. population and just four percent of Pacific Islanders.

Advances in Business

Both Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made headway in the business sector in recent years. Asian Americans owned 1.5 million U.S. businesses in 2007, a 40.4 percent rise from 2002. The number of businesses owned by Pacific Islanders also grew. In 2007, this population owned 37,687 businesses, a jump of 30.2 percent from 2002. Hawaii boasts the largest percentage of businesses started by people of both Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage. Hawaii is home to 47 percent of businesses owned by Asian Americans and nine percent of business owned by Pacific Islanders.

Military Service

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders both have a long history of serving in the military. Historians have noted their exemplary service during World War II, when individuals of Japanese American heritage were vilified after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Today, there are 265,200 Asian American military veterans, a third of whom are age 65 and up. There are currently 27,800 military veterans of Pacific Islander background. Approximately 20 percent of such veterans are 65 and up. These numbers reveal that while Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have historically served in the armed forces, younger generations of the APA community continue to fight for their country.

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Nittle, Nadra Kareem. "Interesting Facts About Asian Americans." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Nittle, Nadra Kareem. (2020, August 27). Interesting Facts About Asian Americans. Retrieved from Nittle, Nadra Kareem. "Interesting Facts About Asian Americans." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 26, 2023).