More than 20 million Asians live in the U.S. Almost all trace their origins to 19 countries in the Eastern, Southeastern and Indian subcontinent. According to Pew Research, the 19 origin groups highlight a wide range in income, education and other characteristics. This may surprise those of us in Silicon Valley, but the model minority myth dismisses the many differences among Asian people. Despite being a myth, the monolithic Asian ideal is still often embraced by government agencies, colleges, industries, and other groups.
Six origin groups
Pew grouped nearly 20 million (or 85%) of Asian immigrants into the following, which each had at least 1 million people in 2019:
- Chinese: The largest group has 5.4 million people in 2019 and shows an 88% growth in the last 20 years.
- Indian:6 million people and shows a 142% growth
- Filipino:2 million people and shows 78% growth
- Vietnamese:2 million people and shows a 78% growth
- Korean:9 million and 55% growth
- Japanese:5 million and 29% growth
Eleven of the groups at least doubled in size, but three smaller groups (Bhutanese, Nepalese and Burmese) grew tenfold or more.
Other notable differences
There are other telling details yielded from Pew’s research:
- The largest origin group varied by state, with Chinese being the top in California (27% of the state’s Asian population), followed by Filipino (24%) and Indian (13%).
- One-third of Japanese Americans are multiracial (non-Hispanic), which is by far the largest number.
- The average age of Asian immigrants was 34-years-old, Hmong was the youngest at 25 and Thai and Japanese were the oldest at 41.
- Asian immigrants with the highest number of bachelor’s degrees were Indian (75%), Malaysian (65%), and Mongolian and Sri Lankan (60%).
America thrives on diversity
The message here is that Asians have a wide range of cultures, histories and skills. It is essential to keep this in mind when making generalizations about Asian people. This diversity is an important point to remember when framing the issues facing American migrants from Asia and the rest of the world.