New immigrants make Asians fastest-growing U.S. group, study says
Asian Americans are now the nation's fastest-growing racial group, overtaking Latinos in recent years as the largest stream of new immigrants arriving annually in the United States.
In an economy that increasingly depends on highly skilled workers, Asian Americans are also the country's best educated and highest-income racial or ethnic group, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.
In fact, U.S. Asians, who trace their roots to dozens of countries in the Far East, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, are arguably the most highly educated immigrant group in U.S. history, the study shows. And although there are significant differences among them by country of origin, on the whole they have found remarkable success in their new land.
"These aren't the poor, tired, huddled masses that Emma Lazarus described in that inscription on the Statue of Liberty," said Paul Taylor, the research center's executive vice president.
In fact, the Asian newcomers' achievements are likely to change the way many Americans think about immigrants, typically as strivers who work hard in the hope that their children and grandchildren will have easier lives and find greater success in this country, Taylor said.
For U.S. Asians, especially those who arrived in recent years, the first generation itself is doing well, outpacing Americans as a whole when it comes to education, household income and family wealth, according to the report released Tuesday.
As a whole, the report said, Asian Americans are more likely than the general public to prefer a big government that provides more services. They also lean Democratic and a majority approves of President Obama's job performance.
Although the first large wave of Asian immigrants came to the U.S. in the early 19th century, the population grew slowly for more than a century, held down by severe restrictions and official prohibitions, some explicitly racist. Most Asian Americans now living in the U.S. arrived after 1965 legislation that allowed immigration from a wider range of countries.
Asian Americans now make up nearly 6%, or 18.2 million, of the U.S. population, the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show. Nearly three-quarters were born abroad, and about 8 million came to this country in the last 30 years.
Geographically, nearly half of all U.S. Asians live in the Western states. California, the traditional gateway for Asian immigrants, has by far the largest number, almost 6 million. Of the major Asian subgroups, in fact, only those from India are relatively evenly distributed throughout the country, with the largest share, 31%, living in the Northeast.
Asian immigration has grown rapidly in recent years, with nearly 3 million arriving since 2000. At the same time, Latino immigration, especially from Mexico, has slowed sharply, mainly because of the weakened U.S. economy and tougher border enforcement.
As a result, the number of newly arrived Asian immigrants has outpaced Latinos each year since 2009, according to Pew's analysis of census data. In 2010, for instance, 36% of new U.S. immigrants were Asian, compared with 31% who were Latino.
The most recent immigrants have arrived even as the economy has boomed in many Asian countries and the standard of living has risen. Taylor said the reason many Asians move to the U.S. include shifts in U.S. immigration policies, changes in their home countries and U.S. labor needs for science, engineering and math graduates.
The Pew study combines recent census and economic data with an extensive, nationally representative survey of 3,500 Asian Americans. The interviews, conducted from January to March, were done in English and seven Asian languages.
-- Rebecca Trounson