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Asian Americans now country's fastest growing racial group

October 26, 2011 |  2:59 pm

Hmong

Increased immigration from South Asia helped fuel the rapid growth in the number of Asian Americans over the last decade as well as an influx of Asians to states such as Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data released Wednesday.

Growing numbers of Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis and other South Asians highlight the increasing diversity of Asian Americans in the U.S. and the need for policymakers to understand that diversity, according to “A Community of Contrasts,” published by the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.

Looking at Asian Americans as a single group masks the distinct social and economic needs of the various ethnicities involved, said Dan Ichinose, director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center’s Demographic Research Project. For example, while 23% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi Americans lack health insurance, only 8% of Japanese Americans do.

And while 26% of Hmong Americans and 20% of Bangladeshi Americans live below the poverty line, only 6% of Filipinos and 8% of Indians do.

“Despite many success stories in our communities, there are real needs,” Ichinose said. “Asian Americans are increasingly a population that policymakers and service providers need to account for in their planning.”

According to the report, which used 2010 Census, American Community Survey and other government data, immigration, both legal and illegal, has fueled most of the population growth. Approximately 60% of Asian Americans are foreign-born and about 1 million are undocumented, according to the report.

Among the undocumented, those from the Philippines, India, South Korea and China make up the largest numbers.

Though California’s population of more than 5.5 million Asian Americans remained the country’s largest, several other states showed significant growth over the last decade. The population of Asian Americans in Nevada more than doubled, while in Arizona it almost doubled.

Southern states, including Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama, also showed rapid growth. Helen Kim Ho, executive director of the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, which opened last year in Georgia, moved to Atlanta with her family when she was in middle school.

At the time, she said, she was the only Asian American in her school and only one store in town sold Asian foods. Now, she said, there are “maybe a dozen mega markets” that serve Asian Americans.

“The face of Georgia has literally changed,” she said, but things like social services and government services have lagged. “We’re not getting the kind of support that we need,” she said. “Hopefully that will change sooner or later.”

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--Paloma Esquivel

Photo: Wearing traditional Hmong clothing, Sarah Cha, 2, of Fresno, and adults gather for a funeral in Feburary in Fresno. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times.

 

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