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CDC Celebrates Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage

May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

In 1978, a joint congressional resolution established Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. The first 10 days of May were chosen to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants (May 7, 1843) and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869. In 1992, Congress expanded the observance to a month-long celebration.

During the observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we celebrate the cultural traditions, ancestry, native languages, and unique experiences represented among more than 56 ethnic groups from Asia and the Pacific Islands (speaking over 100 languages) who live in the United States.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month offers us an opportunity to celebrate the many contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to our nation, reflect on the challenges still faced by AAPI communities, and recommit to making the American Dream a reality for everyone. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders comprise many ethnicities and languages, and their myriad achievements embody the American experience. Many AAPI communities continue to fight prejudice and struggle to overcome disparities in education, employment, housing, and healthcare.

This year, we recognize the 25th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act's repeal -- milestones that helped mend deep wounds of systemic discrimination. Through the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, there is work to expand opportunities for AAPI communities by improving access to Federal programs where Asian American and Pacific Islanders are currently underserved.

Definitions

Photo: Young daughter hugging motherThe Office of Management and Budget (OMB) defines "Asians" as people having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

On the 2010 Census, the Asian population category includes people who indicated their race(s) as "Asian" or reported entries such as "Asian Indian," "Chinese," "Filipino," "Korean," "Japanese," and "Vietnamese" or provided other detailed Asian responses.

Photo: Young girl smilingThe OMB defines "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander" as people having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

On the 2010 Census, the Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population category includes people who indicated their race by checking a box for "Native Hawaiian," "Guamanian or Chamorro," "Samoan," or "Other Pacific Islander." It also includes people who reported entries such as Pacific Islander; Polynesian (such as Tahitian, Tongan, and Tokelauan); Micronesian (such as Marshallese, Palauan, and Chuukese); and Melanesian (such as Fijian, Guinean, and Solomon Islander).


For more information see the U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census Briefs:

Demographics

Photo: Young boy in school uniform, carrying backpackIn 2011, the population of Asians, including those of more than one race, was estimated at 18.2 million in the U.S. population.

In 2010, those who identify only as Asian constitute approximately 4.8 percent of the American population—14.7 million individuals.

The three largest Asian groups in the United States in 2011 were Chinese (4 million) (except Taiwanese descent), Filipinos (3.4 million), and Asian Indians (3.2 million). These were followed by Vietnamese (1.9 million), Koreans (1.7 million) and Japanese (1.3 million).

The Census Bureau projects that by the year 2050, there will be more than 40.6 million Asians living in the United States, comprising 9.2 percent of the total U.S. population.

The Asian population is represented throughout the country. States with the largest Asian populations (including those with more than one race) in 2011 were California (5.8 million) and New York (1.7 million). Hawaii had the largest concentration or percentage of the total population as Asians ((57% of Hawaiian population reported being of Asian descent (including those of more than one race)).

In 2011, the population of Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI), including those of more than one race, was estimated at 1.4 million in the U.S. population.

Photo: Young Hawaiian womanIn 2011, those who identified as Native Hawaiian constituted the largest detailed NHOPI group with 518,000 individuals, followed by Samoan (174,000) and Guamanian or Chamorro (108,000) individuals.

The Census Bureau projects that by the year 2050 there will be more than 2.6 million Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander individuals in the United States.
States with the largest Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander populations in 2011 were Hawaii (359,000) and California (329,000).

The Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander population is most concentrated in Hawaii. In 2011 26% of the total state population reported being Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (including those with more than one race).

The U.S.-associated Pacific Island Jurisdictions comprises three flag territories:

  • American Samoa
  • Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)
  • Guam

and three freely associated states:

  • The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)
  • The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI)
  • The Republic of Palau

They are U.S. territories made up of hundreds of small islands and atolls spread across about 5 million square miles of ocean—nearly half the size of the United States—with a total population of 469,356 (1999 and 2000 estimates).

For more information:

Examples of Important Health Disparities

Asian Americans

Asian Americans represent the extremes of both health outcomes and socioeconomic status:

  • Asian American women experienced the longest life expectancy (85.8 years) of any ethnic group in the United States.
  • Asian Americans' leading causes of death in 2010 were cancer, heart disease, stroke, unintentional injuries (accidents), and diabetes. Death rates for these conditions are less than other racial/ethnic populations.
  • Asian Americans also are at risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, smoking, and tuberculosis. And their liver disease rates are lower than those of other racial and ethnic populations.
  • Asian Americans in 2008 had a similar age-adjusted prevalence of diabetes (8.2%) compared with the white population (7.0%).
  • In 2010, Asian American women (ages 18+) were least likely to have had a Pap test (68.0%) compared with other women: non-Hispanic white (72.8%), non-Hispanic black (77.4%), Hispanic/Latino (73.6%), American Indian/Alaska Native (73.4%).
  • In 2008, AAPIs aged 19–24 years had an acute hepatitis B incidence (3.1 per 100,000 population) that was 1.6 times greater than non-Hispanic whites of the same age (1.9 per 100,000).
  • Asian Americans and Hispanics in 2006–2008 had the greatest percentage of populations residing in counties whose air quality did not meet EPA standards for particulate matter and ozone compared with other racial and ethnic populations.
  • Asian Americans are less likely to live in poverty (12.8%), more likely to be college graduates or hold graduate degrees (50%), and more likely to be employed in management, business, science, and arts occupations (48.5%) compared with the total U.S. population (15.9%, 28.5%, 36.0%, respectively).
  • Asian Americans contend with numerous factors that may threaten their health, including infrequent medical visits due to the fear of deportation, language and cultural barriers, and the lack of health insurance.

Native Hawaiian & Other Pacific Islanders

Native Hawaiians & Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI) have higher cancer death rates than non-Hispanic Whites.

  • Photo: Father and son with arms around each otherThe 5-year relative survival rate for all cancers for Native Hawaiians is lower than it is for other racial and ethinic populations. Native Hawaiians' survival rate is 47%, compared with 57% for whites and 55% for all races.
  • In 2002, the infant mortality rate for Native Hawaiians was 9.6 per 1,000 live births, a rate greater than the rate for all Asian and Pacific Islanders combined (4.8), and for all populations combined (7.0).
  • Age-adjusted prevalence of diabetes in 2010 was 3 times greater among Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders compared with prevalence among the non-Hispanic white population.
  • In 2008, AAPIs aged 19–24 years had an acute hepatitis B incidence (3.1 per 100,000 population) that was 1.6 times greater than that among non-Hispanic whites of the same age (1.9 per 100,000).
  • Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders have higher rates of smoking, alcohol consumption, and obesity than other minority populations. Major causes of premature death among NHOPIs are obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes.
  • In 2008, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders had the third largest incidence of HIV infection; incidence was third to the incidence of African American and Hispanic populations.
  • Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders in 2006 had the third largest percentage of populations residing in counties with air quality that does not meet EPA standards for particulate matter and ozone. The percentage was third to that among Asian Americans and Hispanics.
  • Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are more likely to live in poverty (21.5%), less likely to be college graduates or hold graduate degrees (14.5%), and less likely to be employed in management, business, science, and arts occupations (24.0%) compared with the total U.S. population (15.9%, 28.5%, 36.0%, respectively).

More Information

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