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Pew survey finds similarities, nuances among Asian American community

Roughly 7% of the U.S. population is made up of Asian immigrants and their descendants, adding up to about 23 million people.

(CN) — Spanning 27 million square miles and 48 countries, the Asian continent is home to 4.7 billion people, more than half the world's population. In moving from Asia to the U.S. however, immigrants and their descendants unilaterally become categorized as “Asian.”

With Asians representing just 7% of the U.S. population, it has long been difficult to reflect individuals' varied, nuanced experiences in large surveys, but data published by Pew on Monday highlights a few similarities among the many differences in views.

People of Asian heritage in America are varied on how they identify themselves, but they are near unanimous on what it means to be American and how they see the American Dream.

“We found that Asian adults’ views about what's important for being truly American are really similar to the general U.S. population,” said Neil Ruiz, associate director of race and ethnicity research and study co-author, in a press conference. “Whether it's accepting people of diverse racial religious backgrounds, believing in individual freedoms, respecting U.S. political institutions and laws, there is no difference between Asian Americans versus the general U.S. adult population.”

More than 90% of Asian adults say being American means accepting people of diverse racial and religious backgrounds in addition to believing in individual freedom. These percentages are similar to the general U.S. population.

Seventy-six percent of Asians say speaking English is necessary to be an American, a number higher than the 65% of the general population who responded similarly.

Asian Americans are also in lockstep with the general population in viewing the American Dream as being about freedom of choice in how to live one’s life, having a good family life and retiring comfortably.

Nearly half of Asians say they are on their way to achieving the American Dream. Nearly a quarter of Asians each say either they will never reach the American Dream or that they have already obtained it.

The largest group of Asians who say they are on their way to achieving the American Dream are those ages 18 to 29, two-thirds of whom hold this view. The largest group to say they will never achieve the American Dream are those who have the least education. Thirty-five percent of Asian adults who have a high school diploma or lower level of education said they will never achieve the American Dream.

The largest group to say they have attained the American Dream are those 65 and older, nearly half of whom hold this view.

Although Asia holds a majority of the world’s population, Asians make up just 7% of the U.S. population, about 23 million people.

About a third of Asian Americans were born in the U.S. to immigrant parents, while 14% can count their lineage in America back three generations or more.

Near equal shares of people surveyed identified themselves as just American (10%) or just Asian (12%). Twenty-five percent of people said they hyphenate their ethnicity with American — as in “Chinese-American” or “Filipino-American” — while 26% used just their ethnicity.

One theme among how people identify themselves is whether they were born in the U.S. or immigrated here and when. More than half of foreign-born Asians identify themselves with their ethnicity compared to 41% of those born in the U.S. Nearly two-thirds of Asians born in the U.S. identify themselves as American, compared to 46% of immigrants.

Sixty-nine percent of people of Asian heritage born in the U.S. say they “consider themselves a typical American,” compared to just 37% of those born outside the U.S.

Representing small groups in large surveys has long been a challenge. Pew began this research in 2021 by conversing with 66 focus groups in 18 languages. From there, Pew researchers spoke with 7,006 Asian American from July 2022 through January 2023, conducting surveys in six languages. Researchers also consulted findings from American Trends Panel conducted this past December.

The U.S. celebrates May as AAPI month, standing for Asian American and Pacific Islanders. Pacific Islanders, however, remain a super-minority in the U.S. population with such varied experiences that it would take a different survey to adequately capture the group’s views.

“Asian Americans are largely an immigrant population. For Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, it is a different story,” Ruiz explained. “It's a story of America coming to them, so that it has very different circumstances, very different identities and very different issues to explore among that population.”

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