Asians are the fastest growing racial group according to a recent report released by the U.S. Census Bureau analyzing 2000 and 2010 census figures.
For those following the nation’s changing demographics that may sound surprising because we’ve also been hearing that Hispanics are the “fastest growing minority group.”
The difference between the two groups can be explained in how the Census Bureau defines people of Hispanic origin. In 2010, new instructions were listed before questions on Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin indicating that “Hispanic origins are not races.”
“Hispanics are considered an ethnic group, not a race. People are either Hispanic/Latino or non-Hispanic/Latino,” explains D’Vera Cohn, senior writer for the Pew Research Center. “Hispanics, as is true of people who are not Hispanic, can be of any race, and are asked on the census form to choose which race or races they belong to.”
As the US Census Bureau explains, “in the federal statistic system, Hispanic origin is considered to be a separate concept from race.”
“Hispanics are a minority group, but not a race. Asians are a minority group and a race,” said Cohn.
And that’s how you come to Asians being the fastest growing racial group when compared with the other major race groups, such as white, black, native American/Alaska native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, with the raw data available to view here.
The U.S. population identifying as Asian alone or in combination with another racial group grew by 45.6 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the report by the U.S. Census Bureau released Wednesday.
The Asian population increased four times faster than the total U.S. population, which grew by 9.7 percent during the past decade.
That trend was also reflected on a state-by-state basis with the Asian population growing by at least 30 percent in 49 states.
Hawaii was the only state that did not experience a similar rate of growth, with an 11 percent increase. Yet Asians already make up 57 percent of the total population in Hawaii.
Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota and Georgia represented the top five states with the most growth.
The Census Bureau figures include respondents who identify as one or more Asian race — or in combination with another race. The 2000 census was the first time respondents could choose more than one race.
In cities with a population of 100,000 or more, Honolulu had the greatest proportion of people who identified as Asian (68 percent,) followed by nine California cities.
New York, meanwhile, represents the largest concentration of Asians with 1.1 million people.
Nationwide, census respondents who identify as Chinese represent the largest Asian group followed by Filipinos and Asian Indians.
Among Asian groups, people identifying as Bangladeshi and Pakistani had some of the strongest growth, doubling in size over the past decade, says Marita Etcubañez of the Asian American Justice Center who contributed to a report analyzing census figures.
“The Asian American population is one that is sixty percent foreign-born, which demonstrates that immigration to the U.S. continues to contribute to our growth,” said Etcubañez, “Nearly one in three of the 9.2 million Asian American foreign-born entered the United States between 2000 and 2009. Some groups are more recent arrivals to the United States. Roughly seven in 10 Malaysian, Bangladeshi, Indian, and Taiwanese Americans were born abroad, and more than three out of four Sri Lankan Americans were born abroad.”
There were other changes census reports say could have attributed to the change in race counts, including demographic changes, such as births and deaths, as well as “migration in and out of a geographic area.”
There is recent data suggesting that the rising Asian population does not come from immigration alone — and that Asians are migrating outside traditional city centers, as explained last year in The Atlantic piece on “The End of Chinatown:”
“In Manhattan, the census showed a decline in Chinatown’s population for the first time in recent memory—almost 9 percent overall, and a 14 percent decline in the Asian population. The exodus from Chinatown is happening partly because the working class is getting priced out of this traditional community and heading to the “ethnoburbs”; development continues to push residents out of the neighborhood and into other, secondary enclaves like Flushing, Queens, in New York. But the influx of migrants who need the networks that Chinatown provides is itself slowing down. Notably, the percentage of foreign-born Chinese New Yorkers fell from about 75 percent in 2000 to 69 percent in 2009.”
The Atlantic also notes that some Chinese are returning to China “lured by Chinese-government incentives.”
The Washington Post reports that the Asian population is up 60 percent in the DC-metro region, with many Asian groups choosing to live in D.C. suburbs. In Virginia, Indians make up the largest group of Asians there while Filipinos are the largest Asian group in two Maryland suburbs.
The Census Bureau reports that counties experiencing the fastest growth were in the Midwest and The South with the Asian population growing in some counties by 200 percent.
(Padmananda Rama is a producer on NPR’s elections unit.)