Identity and Wellbeing
Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Iredale R. Robyn and Guo Fei
Chapter 10: Chinese in the United States: growth, dispersal and integration
This chapter focuses on the Chinese population in the United States, which predominantly consists of first generation immigrants despite the long history of Chinese immigration in this country. We identify several important features of this population. First, its rapid growth, from less than a quarter million in 1960 (of whom a majority in fact were born in the US) to over 4 million in 2012 (60% foreign-born). Second, we look at the strong regional concentration. Almost entirely a West Coast population in the nineteenth century, nearly half of Chinese still live in the West, and about a quarter in the Northeast. The pattern is changing slowly, with some notable growth in the South. Third, the relatively high socio-economic status of this minority group, similar on average to other Asian immigrants, and outperforming non-Hispanic whites on some measures is examined. However a notable feature of Chinese in America, quite unlike other racial/ethnic groups, is its polarization – large shares with very high and very low incomes. These extremes reflect differences in immigrant origins, timing of arrival, and the conditions under which they entered the country. Finally we call attention to settlement patterns within the four metropolitan regions with the largest number of Chinese residents, emphasizing their high level of suburbanization, separation from other groups, and location in relatively advantaged enclaves in both cities and suburbs.
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