Asians: America's Fastest Growing Minority

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Asians have emerged as the fastest growing of the three major ethnic and minority populations in the United States. According to Census Bureau data, the number of US native and foreign-born Asian residents rose 56 percent from the 2000 Census to the 2013 American Community Survey (one year release). This is calculated by comparing estimates based on interviews with residents who have classified themselves as a single race and Asian. In the last two censuses, respondents have been asked to designate their race, with the option of selecting more than one ("combinations"). For simplicity, this analysis uses "one race" rather than "combination" data for Asians and African-Americans as well as all data for Hispanics or Latinos. In 2010, 4.8 percent of the nation's population was "Asian alone" (not in combination with another race or ethnicity).

Overall Population Growth Rates: 2000 to 2013

The 56 percent growth in the Asian population was slightly higher than the 53 percent growth among Hispanics between 2000 and 2013. Asian population growth was also more than three times that of African-Americans, at 15 percent.

Due largely to the greater size of  population of Hispanics and African Americans, the larger Asian percentage increase represented the second smallest numeric increase among the three groups over the past decade. The growth in Hispanics was 19 million, from a 2000 population of 35 million to 2013 population of 54 million. The Asian population grew 5.8 million, from a 2000 population of 10.2 million to a 2013 population of 16.0 million. The African-American population increased somewhat less slowly, at 5.3 million, despite a 2000 population that was nearly 3.5 times the Asian population.

The Census Bureau projects a continuation of similar trends. Between 2013 and 2050, the Asian population (one-race) is expected to increase 115 percent to 34.3 million. This is more than four times the projected national growth rate over the period. The Hispanic population is projected to grow at a slightly lower rate, at 88 percent with a 2050 population of 101 million. The African-American population would continue with the slowest growth of ethnic minorities, adding 40 percent and reaching 16 million by 2050 (Figures 1 and 2), although they will grow faster than the Non-Hispanic White population, which is expected to decline by five percent.

Census Bureau Definition of Asian

Asia is by far the largest continent both in the land area and population. It includes three of the four most populous nations in the world, China, India, and Indonesia (the United States is the third most populous). The Census Bureau classifies people within South Asia (the Indian subcontinent), Southeast Asia and East Asia as Asian, based on their responses to surveys.

As a result, the census definition covers a broad area from the western border of Pakistan, through India, and Bangladesh along with Southeast Asia, China, the Philippines, Japan and Korea.

Distribution of Asian Origins

China, According to the American community survey for 2013, was the origin to the highest number of Asians in the United States, at approximately 24 percent. The Indian subcontinent has the second largest number at approximately 20 percent (including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka). The Philippines represents approximately 17 percent of the Asian population, while Vietnam has approximately 11 percent, Korea nine percent, and Japan five percent. Another 15 percent are classified as "other Asian," indicating origins in one of the other areas of Asia, such as Indonesia or Thailand (Figure 3). Some of these might also be Chinese by ethnicity.

Between 2000 and 2013, the largest numeric growth was among Indian subcontinent and "other Asian" origins, both at 90 percent. Chinese origins increased 56 percent, while the Japanese population fell slightly (minus 0.3 percent).

Population Concentrations

The Asian population is unusually concentrated. The 10 states with the largest Asian population account for nearly three-quarters of the total (Figure 4). California had the largest Asian population, with approximately one-third of the Asian population in the United States. Approximately 5.2 million Asians lived in California. This is more than three times the Asian population living in second-ranked New York, with 1.6 million. Texas ranks third in Asian population, with 1.1 million. Five other states have more than one half million Asians, including New Jersey, Illinois, Washington, Hawaii, and Florida.

Who Lives Where?

California's concentration of Asian population extends to all seven census categories. California has more Indian subcontinent, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and other Asian residents than any other state. New York follows California in the number of Asians with origins in China, the Korea and "other Asian" areas. Hawaii has the second most people with Japanese and Philippine origins. Texas is second in Vietnamese origins and New Jersey ranks second in Indian subcontinental origins. In each of the 10 most Asian states, the group trails Hispanics


In some states, Asians are already the second largest racial minority, behind Latinos. Perhaps most significantly, California's 5.2 million Asians constitute more than double the 2.3 million African-American citizens. In three nearby states, Asians are approximately double or more the African-American population, including Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, and Montana.

In one state, Hawaii, Asians represent the largest minority. Hawaii has 530,000 Asian residents, which is nearly 4 times the Hispanic population and more than 17 times the African-American population. Asians represent the second largest minority in 10 states.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He was appointed to the Amtrak Reform Council to fill the unexpired term of Governor Christine Todd Whitman and has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

Photo: Hsi Lai Temple (Buddhist), Los Angeles By Aaron Logan [CC BY 1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.