There are 20.6 million people who identify as Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander alone (not in combination with another race), making up 6.2% of the nation’s population, according to the 2020 Census.
But it’s not until these numbers are broken down that the incredible diversity of this population becomes clear.
Using recently released data from both the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey’s (ACS) 5-year estimates, we detail the diversity of the racial and ethnic composition of this population and its geographic distribution.
In acknowledgement of the diversity of languages spoken in the United States, the Census Bureau disseminated materials for the 2020 Census in 59 different languages other than English, including 23 languages that originated in Asia.
The 2020 Census shows:
The Asian diaspora is extremely diverse. Using data from the 2016-2020 5-year ACS, the Census Bureau published data for 21 different detailed groups in the United States under the umbrella of Asian alone, including 4.2 million people reporting Chinese (excluding Taiwanese) and 3,526 people reporting Okinawan.
Among NHPI (alone or in combination) individuals, there were roughly 620,000 who identified as Native Hawaiian, 212,000 as Samoan, 156,000 as Chamorro, 65,000 as Tongan, and roughly 50,000 as Fijian.
In acknowledgement of the diversity of languages spoken in the United States, the Census Bureau disseminated materials for the 2020 Census in 59 different languages other than English, including 23 languages that originated in Asia: Bengali, Burmese, Chinese, Khmer, Gujarati, Hindi, Hmong, Ilocano, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Punjabi, Sinhala, Tagalog, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
The U.S. Asian and Pacific Islander populations have diverse backgrounds, according to the ACS’s most recent 5-year estimates:
The Asian and NHPI population was not evenly distributed across the United States, according to the 2020 Census:
The population profiles of major Metropolitan Statistical Areas (“metro areas”) across the country reflect the geographic dispersion of the Asian and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander population. The 2016-2020 ACS 5-year shows:
More data on detailed Asian and NHPI groups from the 2020 Census will be released in summer 2023.
The 2020 Census counted every person living in the United States and the five U.S. territories on April 1, 2020. The 2020 Census Data Quality website provides information about 2020 Census data quality.
The ACS is the premier source for detailed population and housing information about our nation, allowing for more frequent data on America’s communities than the decennial census. ACS 5-year estimates are period estimates that represent data collected within a 60-month period.
Because the ACS is a survey based on a sample of the population rather than a census of the entire population, the ACS estimates presented here are subject to sampling and non-sampling error. Technical documentation and more information about ACS data quality are available on the ACS Technical Documentation website.
Readers should note that the Census Bureau measures race and Hispanic ethnicity separately in accordance with the 1997 Office of Management and Budget’s Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity.
Lindsay M. Monte and Hyon B. Shin are researchers in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.
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