How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Report charts aspects of Asian American life in the U.S., including political involvement

A comprehensive new report examines various aspects of life for Asian Americans in the United States, a population whose rate of growth surpassed that of Latinos between 2000 and 2010.

Compiled by the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, the report draws from census data to examine political involvement, how Asian Americans are affected by immigration policies and other key issues. Among the highlights:

  • The Asian American population in the United States now numbers more than 17 million, having grown 46 percent between 2000 and 2010

  • The vast majority of Asian Americans in the United States live in Hawaii (57.4 percent), followed by California (14.9 percent)

  • Sixty percent of Asian Americans are foreign-born, the highest foreign-born proportion of any racial group nationwide, and roughly one-third are limited in their English proficiency

  • Approximately 1.6 million immigrants from Asian countries entered the United States in the last decade to work and reunite with family; some had to wait as long as 23 years

  • Approximately 57 percent of Asian American immigrants are U.S. citizens, an increase from 50 percent in 2000

  • More than 15 percent of Asian Americans are of mixed race, a much higher proportion than the general population; only percent of all Americans are multiracial

  • The buying power of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders nearly doubled between 2000 and 2009, growing 89 percent, a rate surpassed only by that of Latinos

  • At the same time, some Asian American ethnic groups (including Hmong, Bangladeshi and Cambodian) are among the nation's poorest

  • While record numbers of Asian Americans voted in the 2008 national election, only 68 percent of those old enough to vote are U.S. citizens, and only 55 percent of those who are eligible to register have done so

The political aspect is critical, with strong Asian American population growth seen during the last decade in politically important states like Nevada, where the number of Asian American residents grew by 116 percent. While Asian American voters could well influence next year's presidential election, there have long been complaints that these voters are underestimated by politicians, who focus on procuring Latino votes but do little outreach to Asian Americans.

Civic engagement also remains relatively low in comparison to other groups. Asian Americans have the lowest registration rate for eligible voters, compared with other ethnic groups and the general population. From the report:

Once registered, the rate of Asian American voter turnout still lags behind that of non-Hispanic Whites. Greater naturalization, voter registration, and Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts are needed if Asian Americans are to realize their untapped political potential. Bilingual voter assistance required under the federal Voting Rights Act remains critical to ensuring Asian American voters have full access to the ballot.

The report charts various other aspects of Asian American life, from entrepreneurial activity to home ownership and how Asian Americans have been affected by the economic crisis. The entire report can be downloaded here.
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