US & Canada

US Asian population outpaces other minorities

Grandfather with his grandchildren
Image caption Three quarters of Asian-American adults are foreign-born

Asians have passed Latinos as the fastest growing group of US immigrants, according to a Pew Center study .

Asians made up more than 36% of all US newcomers in 2010, compared to 31% with Hispanic origins in the same year.

The study found Asian immigrants to be the most educated group of immigrants in US history.

Analysts say the trend reflects a slowdown in illegal immigration as employers boost their demand for high-skilled workers.

"For an economy that requires higher skills, Asian-Americans are very well positioned," said Elaine Chao, a former US Secretary of Labor.

More than 6 in 10 adults who recently arrived from Asia have at least a bachelor's degree, twice the rate of recent non-Asian immigrants.

Ms Chao, who served for eight years under President George W Bush as the first Asian-American female cabinet member, warned that issues for the foreign-born population still remain.

"Their first concern is to make a living, survive in this country, take care of their kids and put them in the best schools possible," said Ms Chao at a Pew-sponsored event in Washington DC.

Heterogeneous group

The fact that this milestone happened in 2009 and went largely unnoticed startled many experts, who attributed it to cultural differences.

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Media captionBrands have found a new interest in the growing Asian American community

"There has been an argument to keep your head down and study hard and succeed more in the private sector than in the public sphere," said Neera Tanden, a former senior advisor in the Obama administration and herself a daughter of Indian immigrants.

Asian-Americans are still considered a small minority in the US, representing less than 6% of the total population.

But the US Asian community consists of more than a dozen subgroups speaking almost as many different languages.

In the study, Pew found that the six largest immigrant Asian immigrant groups to the US were Chinese, Filipinos, Indians, Vietnamese, Koreans and Japanese.

Diplomatic opportunity

The fact that 74% of Asian-American adults are foreign-born trickled down to many other findings.

Pew found that 19% describe themselves as "Asian-American" and only 14% as "American", with 62% preferring their country of origin or the hyphenate of that country, for example, "Chinese-American".

One interesting trend could be the development of Asian-Americans born in the US, said Elaine Chao.

Image caption US Ambassador to China Gary Locke shakes hands with China's President Hu Jintao

"The median age of the second generation in this community is 17 years old so their chapter has yet to be written."

The rise of Asian-Americans in US society is seen by many experts as a chance to build bridges with emerging economies in Asia.

Both the US ambassador to China, Gary Locke, and the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Beijing, Robert Wang, are Chinese-American.

"Having in China two Chinese-Americans representing the United States is very powerful," said Benjamin Wu, vice chair of the US-Asia Institute.

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