East Asians of the United States - Orientation

Identification. The general category of East Asians in the United States includes Americans of Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and Korean ancestry. Neither East Asians in general nor any of the four East Asian-American groups is a homogeneous cultural group in the United States. Within each are a number of identifiable subgroups, with perhaps the most sigificant being those who arrived before World War II and their descendants and those who have arrived since, the latter, Except for Japanese-Americans, making up the overwhelming majority of East Asian-Americans. Other important divisions are based on the region of origin in the sending nation, language, religion, generation, and occupation.

Location. Prior to the post-World War II population increase East Asian-Americans were concentrated in Hawaii and California, with small numbers in Washington and Oregon. Since World War II, the percentage of East Asians has increased dramatically, partly through immigration to the United States and partly through migration from Hawaii to the mainland. Japanese-Americans remain heavily concentrated in the West (80.3 percent in 1980), mainly in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose areas, though sizable numbers now live in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York City. In 1980, 42.9 percent of Korean-Americans lived in the West, with the other 60 percent distributed almost evenly in the northeastern, north-central, and southern Regions. In 1980, 52.7 percent of Chinese-Americans lived in the West with 26.8 percent in the East, with major Communities in New York City and Boston. Filipino-Americans remain a largely West Coast group with 68.8 percent settled there in 1980. Large Filipino communities also exist in Detroit, Chicago, New York City, and Boston as well as in San Diego, Norfolk, New London, Connecticut, and other cities with large naval bases, reflecting a tradition of Filipino service in the U.S. Navy dating to 1901.

Demography. Estimates for 1985 indicate that there were 1,079,400 Chinese, 1,051,600 Filipino, 766,300 Japanese, and 542,400 Korean-Americans in the United States. If Immigration figures for 1986 through 1989 are considered, it is likely that Filipinos are now the largest East Asian group in the United States as the number of Filipino immigrants was more than double the number of Chinese ones during this period. The number of East Asians has increased dramatically since the 1950s. In 1940, there were 285,115 Japanese, 106,334 Chinese, 98,535 Filipino, and 8,568 Korean-Americans. Reflecting this heavy recent immigration, the East Asian population contains a majority of immigrants (in 1980, 63.3 percent of the Chinese, 64.7 of the Filipinos, 81.9 percent of the Koreans), and they are a young population (about 60 percent are under forty-four years of age in these three groups). Japanese-Americans were a larger population than the other groups before 1950 and have had a lower rate of immigration since then; thus they have a lower percentage of immigrants (28.4 percent) and are a somewhat older Population group.

Linguistic Affiliation. The first generation of East Asian immigrants generally spoke the language of their homeland. Thus, Japanese spoke Japanese; Koreans spoke Korean; Chinese spoke Cantonese, various Mandarin dialects, or Hakka; and Filipinos spoke Ilocano, Visayan, or Tagalog, with most recent immigrants speaking Tagalog, now the offical language of the Philippines. In the second generation of recent Immigrants, relatively few speak the native language regularly or remain fluent in it as adults. Instead, they prefer to speak English. Native language maintenance is a major concern of the first generation of recent immigrants, though language school programs have met with only limited success.

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