The Debate

Asian Immigration Drives US Population Growth

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The Debate

Asian Immigration Drives US Population Growth

Asians were the fastest growing ethnic group in the US in 2012, with 60 percent of the growth due to immigration.

Asians were the fastest growth ethnic or racial demographic group in the United States during 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau announced on Thursday.

There were 18.9 million individuals of Asian heritage in the United States at the end of 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a government agency. This was 530,000 more Asians than there were in the U.S. at the end of 2011, a yearly growth rate of just under 3 percent.

More than 60 percent of this growth in people of Asian last year came from international migration, the Census Bureau said in a press release accompanying the release of updated data.

Although Hawaii was the only state with an Asian-majority population in the U.S., as of July 2012 the state of California was home to the largest Asian population with 6 million people. California also boasted the largest yearly growth in Asian residents from July 2011to July 2012. During that time, the number of people of Asian ancestry living in the state of California grew by 136,000.

Los Angeles County, California also had the largest Asian population— 4.8 million—of any county in the United States, and saw the largest growth in its population from July 2011 to July 2012 (25,000).

Although California has long had a vibrant Asian population—with immigration dating at least as far back as the 19th Century— it has shown remarkable growth in the last decade or so. In 2001, for instance, 42 percent of California’s new immigrants came from Latin American countries, whereas 37 percent of the people were from Asian countries. By 2011, however, 57 percent of the new immigrants to California were from Asian countries and only 22 percent came from Latin America.  

A number of different Asian nationalities are well represented in California as well. The city of Los Angeles has both a Chinatown and Little Tokyo section of the city. In fact, all three Little Tokyos in the United States are located in the state of California.

On the other hand, the 2010 U.S. Census found that of the ten cities with the largest Vietnamese populations in the United States, no less than seven were located in California. Overall, California’s over 581,000 Vietnamese residents were more than twice as many as in Texas, the state with the 2nd largest Vietnamese population at around 210,000.

The relationship between Asia and California goes both ways, however. Five of California’s largest export markets are in Asia—China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. California Governor Jerry Brown has also met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on a number of occasions now, including traveling to China earlier this year to open trade offices in Shanghai and other cities inside China.

Although the latest census release didn’t break the Asian population down by country of origin, the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau found that Chinese were the largest Asian immigrant group in the U.S. with over 3.3 million, followed by Indians (2.84 million), Filipinos (2.55 million), Vietnamese (1.5 million), Koreans (1.4 million), and Japanese (763,325). Overall, the 2010 Census said nearly 14.7 million people of Asian ancestry were living in the U.S. in 2010, a 43.2 percent increase from 2000.