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Asian American community is the most ethnically diverse group in the United States. With the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the population of Asian Americans has increased exponentially over the last 50 years. They are composed of Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and other Americans from with Asian origin. However, they are often lumped together diverse peoples in a single and viewed by other Americans simply as Asian Americans. A research study from the Pew Research Center found that the U.S. Asian population grew 72% between 2000 and 2015 (from 11.9 million to 20.4 million), the fastest growth rate of any major racial or ethnic group (Lopez, Ruiz, & Patten, 2017). Throughout their history, Asian Americans have often been subject to racism, racial discrimination, racial isolation, xenophobia and stereotype or group definition for many years. Therefore, it is crucial that we address the challenges that this community faces. It is well documented that Asian American communities face remarkable disparities in education, health, and economic indicators. Thus, it is essential that our local and state government leaders nationwide in their efforts to put into place policy solutions to address these disparities.
When it comes to the history of Asian Americans, Chinese immigration is significantly older than Japanese immigration to the United States. Chinese immigrants started coming to America in 1849 looking to seek out new opportunities and strike it rich during California Gold Rush with hopes of being to send money back to their family. However, a few years after the Gold Rush began, Chinese immigrants soon found out that many Americans had a lot of anger and hostility towards them to the point of xenophobia. One major reason for the belligerent nature was the lack of gold available to miners and the jealousy of the unfortunate. Despite such a bad treatment, Chinese immigrants continued working the gold mines and some looked for different jobs until the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (Zong, & Batalova, 2017). In the same way, the first immigrants from Japan began to arrive in America when Congress passed legislation in 1882 that excluded further Chinese immigration, consequently it created a demand for new immigrant labor. As a result of the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, it restricted sharply the number of Asian immigrants allowed to enter the United States, and since then, Asian immigrant arrivals have fallen to record low during the next couple of decades. After the Pearl Harbor attack, federal government had begun rounding up people of Japanese heritage with no proof of wrongdoing, uprooting them from their homes and forcing them into internment camps. Afterward, trends that changed the United America with 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act that led to millions of Asians to flow in the country (Guo, 2016). Nevertheless, the spirit of intolerance has not ceased, most Asian Americans continue to suffer from racism and discrimination in their respective places of academia and their day to day activities.
The American populations of the Chinese and Japanese are compared. According to the Pew Research Center, Among Asian subgroups, Chinese Americans make up the largest subgroup at 24 percent. In 2015, the cities with the largest Chinese populations were New York (798 thousand), Los Angeles (604 thousand), San Francisco (519 thousand), San Jose (194 thousand), and Boston (153 thousand). By comparison, Japanese Americans make up the subgroup at 7 percent. In 2015, the cities with the largest Japanese populations were Honolulu (195 thousand), Los Angeles (182 thousand), San Francisco (65 thousand), New York (59 thousand), and Seattle (52 thousand) (Lopez, Ruiz, & Patten, 2017). In other words, the larger populations with Japanese Americans and Chinese Americans are similar and show how the immigration was focused to those cities. In addition, the majority of Asian Americans tend to live in or near major cities because it is more ethnically diverse and tolerant towards other cultural values. According to the result of several studies, the size of the Asian immigrant population in the United States continues to increases, at the same time, Japanese American population has slowed dramatically in the past several decades, the result of the transformation of the Japanese economy to technological from agricultural (Haynes, 2001).
Certainly the current demographic changes have played an essential role in the advanced educational attainment levels among young Asians. Increasing levels of population growth and rising birth rates have made Asians the fastest growing ethnic group in the country. According to the Census Bureau, total college enrollment of Asian-Americans over roughly the same period rose just 33 percent, from 978,200 in 2000 to more than 1.3 million in 2016 (Konana, 2018). There is still more work to be done, however, because while Asians have reached record numbers in terms of college enrollment 33 percent of 18 to 24 year olds, after disaggregation of data, some ethnic groups continue to lag in comparison to all other racial and ethnic groups.
Despite widespread assumptions that all Asian Americans are academic high achievers, and yet they are generally seen and not heard in America. Nevertheless, this characterization has a number of problems. In regards to data disaggregation, for example, 54 percent of Chinese Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 49 percent of Japanese Americans. 59 percent of Chinese adults have proficiency in English, and one in three Chinese adults has completed high school or less–although 83 percent of Japanese adults have proficiency in English, and one in five Japanese adults has completed high school or less (Lopez, Ruiz, & Patten, 2017). The issue is that unlike Hispanic Americans who are mainly speak Spanish and practice Catholic, Asian Americans are not homogeneous, they speak different languages, practice different religions, come from different cultural backgrounds, and are also politically heterogeneous. More importantly, it misses a heterogeneity group between different Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander. People of China and Japanese origin, for instance, cannot be easily lumped together.
The huge inequalities between people in different racial categories are one of the most pressing challenges for public policy in the 21 century (Joo, Reeves, & Rodrigue, 2016). Due some reasons, Asian Americans are affected very strongly by many health disparities whereas other Asian Americans appear to experience no or only some face significant barriers to accessing adequate health care. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2016, health insurance coverage among Asian American subgroups varied. Despite the fact that only 1 in 10 of those Asian adults lack health insurance, this statistic can be disaggregated down to seven percent of Chinese Americans and five percent of Japanese Americans lacking insurance. Therefore, health insurance plans are essential to communities of Asians accessing health care.
By 2055, when demographers suggest that there will be no racial or ethnic majority among the general population of the United States, it is projected that the Asian population will become the largest immigrant group in the country, surpassing Hispanics (Lopez, Ruiz, & Patten, 2017). Consequently, the role of Asians in shaping American politics today is becoming more sufficiently great.
Asian Americans have faced pervasive and persistent discrimination and prejudices in their daily lives that directly affected their health and well being. They have also been denied equal right under the laws of the United States to the white Americans for more than 150 years. The Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 was as a result many acts of discrimination. Additionally, they were singled out and forbidden from coming to the United States. This was followed by huge denials against Japanese immigrants who were seeking equal citizenship rights and ownership of properties. As we look toward the future, it is vital that we begin by addressing the gaps in educational attainment and in health coverage for Asians. Recognizing that each American demographic confront many challenges in their lives, it is important that we acknowledge our diverse perspectives and craft policy solutions emerging from an inclusive national discourse. Closing the gaps today will make America more competitive and stronger in the future.
- Guo, Jeff. “The real secret to Asian American success was not education.” The Washington Post, 19 November 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/11/19/the-real-secret-to-asian-american-success-was-not-education/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5766e011624d. Accessed 25 October 2018.
- Haynes, V. Dion. “Japantown communities are fading fast.” Chicago Tribune, 8 July 2001, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2001-07-08-0107080391-story.html. Accessed 25 October 2018.
- Joo, Nathan; Richard V. Reeves & Edward Rodrigue. “Asian-American success and the pitfalls of generalization.” Brookings, 20 April 2016, https://www.brookings.edu/research/asian-american-success-and-the-pitfalls-of-generalization/. Accessed 25 October 2018.
- Konana, Prabhudev. “Harvard shouldn’t punish Asian-American students for working too hard, achieving too much.” USA Today, 2 November 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/11/02/universities-harvard-yale-reward-asian-americans-successful-diversity-bias-column/1739012002/. Accessed 2 November 2018.
- Lopez, Gustavo; Neil G. Ruiz & Eileen Patten. “Key facts about Asian Americans, a diverse and growing population.” Pew Research Center. 8 September 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/08/key-facts-about-asian-americans/. Accessed 25 October 2018.
- Zong, Jie, and Jeanne Batalova. “Chinese Immigrants in the United States.” Migration Policy Institute, 29 September 2017, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/chinese-immigrants-united-states. Accessed 25 October 2018.
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