Chinese Americans

Chinese Americans
Total population
4,760,804 (except Taiwanese)[1] (2015 United States surveys)
Regions with significant populations
New York metropolitan area, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle
Predominantly English, varieties of Chinese:
Mandarin Chinese (Standard Chinese), Yue Chinese (Cantonese, Taishanese), Min Chinese (Eastern,[2] Southern), Hakka, Wu Chinese[3] (Taihu Wu, Oujiang Wu), and Minority Uyghur.
Confucianism, Taoism, Unaffiliated, Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism[4][5] Islam
Related ethnic groups
Asian Americans, Hakka Americans, Hokkien and Hoklo Americans, Hong Kong Americans, Mongolian Americans, Taiwanese Americans, Tibetan Americans
Overseas Chinese
Chinese Americans
Traditional Chinese 華裔美國人
Simplified Chinese 华裔美国人
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 華人
Simplified Chinese 华人

Chinese Americans, also known as the American Chinese, are Americans who have full or partial Chinese ancestry. Chinese Americans constitute one group of overseas Chinese and also a subgroup of East Asian Americans, which is further a subgroup of Asian Americans. Many Chinese Americans are immigrants along with their descendants from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, as well as from other countries that include large populations of the Chinese diaspora.[6] The vast majority of Chinese Americans are Han, however there are some communities of minority groups such as Tibetans and Korean Chinese.

The Chinese American community is the largest overseas Chinese community outside of Asia. It is also the third largest in the Chinese diaspora, behind the Chinese communities in Thailand and Malaysia. The Chinese American community comprises the largest ethnic group of Asian Americans, comprising 25.9% of the Asian American population as of 2010. Americans of Chinese descent, including those with partial Chinese ancestry constitute 1.2% of the total U.S. population as of 2010. According to the 2010 census, the Chinese American population numbered approximately 3.8 million.[7] In 2010, half of Chinese-born people living in the United States resided in the states of California and New York.[8]

The Chinese American experience has been documented at the Museum of Chinese in America in Manhattan's Chinatown since 1980.


The first Chinese immigrants arrived in 1820, according to U.S. government records. 325 men are known to have arrived before the 1849 California Gold Rush,[9] which drew the first significant number of laborers from China who mined for gold and performed menial labor.[10][11][12] There were 25,000 immigrants by 1852, and 105,465 by 1880, most of whom lived on the West Coast. They formed over a tenth of California's population. Nearly all of the early immigrants were young males with low educational levels from six districts in Guangdong Province.[13]

In the 1850s, Chinese workers migrated to the United States, first to work in the gold mines, but also to take agricultural jobs, and factory work, especially in the garment industry. Chinese immigrants were particularly instrumental in building railroads in the American west, and as Chinese laborers grew successful in the United States, a number of them became entrepreneurs in their own right. As the numbers of Chinese laborers increased, so did the strength of anti-Chinese sentiment among other workers in the American economy. This finally resulted in legislation that aimed to limit future immigration of Chinese workers to the United States, and threatened to sour diplomatic relations between the United States and China; The Chinese Exclusion Act[14]

The Chinese came to California in large numbers during the California Gold Rush, with 40,400 being recorded as arriving from 1851–1860, and again in the 1860s, when the Central Pacific Railroad recruited large labor gangs, many on five-year contracts, to build its portion of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Chinese laborers worked out well and thousands more were recruited until the railroad's completion in 1869. Chinese labor provided the massive workforce needed to build the majority of the Central Pacific's difficult route through the Sierra Nevada mountains and across Nevada.

American objections to Chinese immigration took many forms, and generally stemmed from economic and cultural tensions, as well as ethnic discrimination. Most Chinese laborers who came to the United States did so in order to send money back to China to support their families there. At the same time, they also had to repay loans to the Chinese merchants who paid their passage to America. These financial pressures left them little choice but to work for whatever wages they could. Non-Chinese laborers often required much higher wages to support their wives and children in the United States, and also generally had a stronger political standing to bargain for higher wages. Therefore, many of the non-Chinese workers in the United States came to resent the Chinese laborers, who might squeeze them out of their jobs. Furthermore, as with most immigrant communities, many Chinese settled in their own neighborhoods, and tales spread of Chinatowns as places where large numbers of Chinese men congregated to visit prostitutes, smoke opium, or gamble. Some advocates of anti-Chinese legislation therefore argued that admitting Chinese into the United States lowered the cultural and moral standards of American society. Others used a more overtly racist argument for limiting immigration from East Asia, and expressed concern about the integrity of American racial composition.[14]

To address these rising social tensions, from the 1850s through the 1870s the California state government passed a series of measures aimed at Chinese residents, ranging from requiring special licenses for Chinese businesses or workers to preventing naturalization. Because anti-Chinese discrimination and efforts to stop Chinese immigration violated the 1868 Burlingame-Seward Treaty with China, the federal government was able to negate much of this legislation.[14]

The Chinese population rose from 2,716 in 1851 to 63,000 by 1871. In the decade 1861-70, 64,301 were recorded as arriving, followed by 123,201 in 1871-80 and 61,711 in 1881-1890. 77% were located in California, with the rest scattered across the West, the South, and New England.[15] Most came from Southern China looking for a better life, escaping a high rate of poverty left after the Taiping Rebellion.

In 1879, advocates of immigration restriction succeeded in introducing and passing legislation in Congress to limit the number of Chinese arriving to fifteen per ship or vessel. Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes vetoed the bill because it violated U.S. treaty agreements with China. Nevertheless, it was still an important victory for advocates of exclusion. Democrats, led by supporters in the West, advocated for all-out exclusion of Chinese immigrants. Although Republicans were largely sympathetic to western concerns, they were committed to a platform of free immigration. In order to placate the western states without offending China, President Hayes sought a revision of the Burlingame-Seward Treaty (Burlingame Treaty) in which China agreed to limit immigration to the United States.[14]

In 1880, the Hayes Administration appointed U.S. diplomat James B. Angell to negotiate a new treaty with China. The resulting Angell Treaty permitted the United States to restrict, but not completely prohibit, Chinese immigration. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which, per the terms of the Angell Treaty, suspended the immigration of Chinese laborers (skilled or unskilled) for a period of 10 years. The Act also required every Chinese person traveling in or out of the country to carry a certificate identifying his or her status as a laborer, scholar, diplomat, or merchant. The 1882 Act was the first in American history to place broad restrictions on immigration.[14]

For American presidents and Congressmen addressing the question of Chinese exclusion, the challenge was to balance domestic attitudes and politics, which dictated an anti-Chinese policy, while maintaining good diplomatic relations with China, where exclusion would be seen as an affront and a violation of treaty promises. The domestic factors ultimately trumped international concerns. In 1888, Congress took exclusion even further and passed the Scott Act, which made reentry to the United States after a visit to China impossible, even for long-term legal residents. The Chinese Government considered this act a direct insult, but was unable to prevent its passage. In 1892, Congress voted to renew exclusion for ten years in the Geary Act, and in 1902, the prohibition was expanded to cover Hawaii and the Philippines, all over strong objections from the Chinese Government and people. Congress later extended the Exclusion Act indefinitely.[14]

The initial immigration group may have been as high as 90% male due to the Chinese Exclusion act, resulting in most immigrants coming with the thought of earning money, and then returning to China to start a family. Those that stayed in America faced the lack of suitable Chinese brides, because Chinese women were not allowed to immigrate to the US in significant numbers after 1872. As a result, many isolated mostly-bachelor communities slowly aged in place with very low Chinese birth rates. Later, as a result of the Fourteenth Amendment and the 1898 United States v. Wong Kim Ark Supreme Court decision, ethnic Chinese born in the United States became American citizens.

The Chinese Exclusion Acts were not repealed until 1943, and then only in the interests of aiding the morale of a wartime ally during World War II. With relations already complicated by the Opium Wars and the Treaties of Wangxia and Tianjian, the increasingly harsh restrictions on Chinese immigration, combined with the rising discrimination against Chinese living in the United States in the 1870s-early 1900s, placed additional strain on the diplomatic relationship between the United States and China.[14]

In the mid 1850s, 70 to 150 Chinese were living in New York City and 11 of them married Irish women. In 1906, The New York Times (6 August) reported that 300 white women (Irish American) were married to Chinese men in New York, with many more cohabited. In 1900, based on Liang research, of the 120,000 men in more than 20 Chinese communities in the United States, he estimated that one out of every twenty Chinese men (Cantonese) was married to white women.[16] In the 1960s census showed 3500 Chinese men married to white women and 2900 Chinese women married to white men.[17] Originally at the start of the 20th century there was a 55% rate of Chinese men in New York engaging in interracial marriage which was maintained in the 1920s but in the 1930s it slid to 20%.[18]

During and after World War II, severe immigration restrictions were eased as the United States allied with China against Japanese expansionism. Later reforms in the 1960s placed increasing value on family unification, allowing relatives of U.S. citizens to receive preference in immigration.

The Chinese American experience has been documented at the Museum of Chinese in America in Manhattan's Chinatown since 1980.



The chart on the right shows the total number of ethnic Chinese in the United States since 1850.[19][20]

Historical population
Percentage of Chinese population in the United States, 2000.

According to the 2012 Census estimates,[21] the three metropolitan areas with the largest Chinese American populations were the Greater New York Combined Statistical Area at 735,019 people, the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland Combined Statistical Area at 629,243 people, and the Greater Los Angeles Combined Statistical Area at about 566,968 people. New York City is home to the highest Chinese American population of any city proper (522,619), while the Los Angeles County city of Monterey Park has the highest percentage of Chinese Americans of any municipality, at 43.7% of its population, or 24,758 people.

The states with the largest estimated Chinese American populations, according to both the 2010 Census, were California (1,253,100; 3.4%), New York (577,000; 3.0%), Texas (157,000; 0.6%), New Jersey (134,500; 1.5%), Massachusetts (123,000; 1.9%), Illinois (104,200; 0.8%), Washington (94,200; 1.4%), Pennsylvania (85,000; 0.7%), Maryland (69,400; 1.2%), Virginia (59,800; 0.7%), and Ohio (51,033; 0.5%). The state of Hawaii has the highest concentration of Chinese Americans at 4.0%, or 55,000 people.

The New York metropolitan area, consisting of New York City, Long Island, and nearby areas within the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, is home to the largest Chinese American population of any metropolitan area within the United States and the largest Chinese population outside of China, enumerating 682,265 individuals as of the 2010 United States Census,[22] and including at least nine Chinatowns. Continuing significant immigration from Mainland China, both legal[23][24] and illegal[25] in origin, has spurred the ongoing rise of the Chinese American population in the New York metropolitan area; this immigration continues to be fueled by New York's status as an alpha global city, its high population density, its extensive mass transit system, and the New York metropolitan area's enormous economic marketplace.

Also on the East Coast, the Washington, Boston, and Philadelphia metropolitan areas have significant Chinese American communities. The Washington, D.C. suburbs of Montgomery County, Maryland, and Fairfax County, Virginia, are 3.9% and 2.4% Chinese American, respectively. Boston's Chinatown is the only historical Chinese neighborhood within New England. The Boston suburb of Quincy also has a prominent Chinese American population, especially within the North Quincy area.[26]

San Francisco, California has the highest per capita concentration of Chinese Americans of any major city in the United States, at an estimated 21.4%, or 172,181 people, and contains the second-largest total number of Chinese Americans of any U.S. city. San Francisco's Chinatown was established in the 1840s, making it the oldest Chinatown in North America and one of the largest neighborhoods of Chinese people outside of Asia,[27][28] composed in large part by immigrants hailing from Guangdong province and also many from Hong Kong. The San Francisco neighborhoods of Sunset District and Richmond District also contain significant Chinese populations.

In addition to the big cities, smaller pockets of Chinese Americans are also dispersed in rural towns, often university-college towns, throughout the United States. For example, the number of Chinese Americans, including college professors, doctors, professionals, and students, has increased over 200% from 2005 to 2010 in Providence, Rhode Island, a small city with a large number of colleges.

Income and social status of these Chinese-American locations vary widely. Although many Chinese Americans in Chinatowns of large cities are often members of an impoverished working class, others are well-educated upper-class people living in affluent suburbs. The upper and lower-class Chinese are also widely separated by social status and class discrimination. In California's San Gabriel Valley, for example, the cities of Monterey Park and San Marino are both Chinese American communities lying geographically close to each other but they are separated by a large socioeconomic gap.

A third of a million Chinese Americans are not United States citizens.[29]

Cultural centers

New York City is home to the largest Chinese American population of any city proper, over half million.[30] Multiple large Chinatowns in Manhattan, Brooklyn (above), and Queens are thriving as traditionally urban enclaves, as large-scale Chinese immigration continues into New York,[31][32][33][34][35] with the largest metropolitan Chinese population outside Asia.[36][37]
San Francisco is home to the second largest Chinese community in the United States in number and the largest in percentage.

A list of large cities (250,000+ residents) with a Chinese-American population in excess of 1% of the general population in 2010.[7]

Rank City State Chinese-Americans Percentage
1 San Francisco California 172,181 21.4
2 Honolulu Hawaii 38,330 10.2
3 Oakland California 34,083 8.7
4 San Jose California 63,434 6.7
5 New York City New York 486,463 6.0
6 Plano Texas 13,592 5.2
7 Sacramento California 20,307 4.4
8 Seattle Washington 27,216 4.1
9 Boston Massachusetts 24,910 4.0
10 San Diego California 35,661 2.7
11 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 30,069 2.0
12 Stockton California 5,188 1.8
13 Los Angeles California 66,782 1.8
14 Portland Oregon 9,113 1.7
15 Chicago Illinois 43,228 1.6
16 Anaheim California 4,738 1.4
17 Houston Texas 29,429 1.3
18 Austin Texas 8,886 1.2
19 Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 3,402 1.1
20 Riverside California 2,985 1.0

Social status and assimilation

Some noteworthy historical Chinese contributions include building the western half of the Transcontinental Railroad, and levees in the Sacramento River Delta; the popularization of Chinese American food; and the introduction of Chinese and East Asian culture to America, such as Buddhism, Taoism, and Kung fu.

Chinese immigrants to the United States brought many of their ideas and values with them. Some of these have continued to influence later generations. Among them are Confucian respect for elders.[38] Similarly, education and the civil service were the most important path for upward social mobility in China.[38][39] The first Broadway show about Asian Americans was Flower Drum Song which premiered on Broadway in 1958;[40] the hit Chinglish premiered on Broadway in 2011.[41]

In most American cities with significant Chinese populations, the new year is celebrated with cultural festivals and parties. In Seattle, the Chinese Culture and Arts Festival is held every year. Other important festivals include the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival.


Analysis indicated that most non-Asian Americans do not differentiate between Chinese Americans and East Asian Americans generally, and perceptions of both groups are nearly identical.[42] A 2001 survey of Americans' attitudes toward Asian Americans and Chinese Americans indicated that one fourth of the respondents had somewhat or very negative attitude toward Chinese Americans in general.[43] The study did find several positive perceptions of Chinese Americans: strong family values (91%); honesty as entrepreneurs (77%); high value on education (67%).[42]


Chinese is the third most-spoken language in the United States, almost completely spoken within Chinese American populations and by immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, especially in California.[44] Over 2 million Americans speak some variety of Chinese, with Mandarin Chinese becoming increasingly common due to immigration from China and replacing Cantonese.[44]

In New York City at least, although Standard Chinese (Mandarin) is spoken as a native language among only 10% of American born Chinese speakers, it is used as a secondary dialect to English.[45] In addition, immigration from Fujian is bringing an increasingly large number of Min speakers. Varieties of Wu Chinese is now spoken by a minority of recent Chinese immigrants hailing from Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai.

Although Chinese Americans grow up learning English, some teach their children Chinese for a variety of reasons: preservation of an ancient civilization, preservation of a group identity, preservation of their cultural ancestry, desire for easy communication with each other and their relatives, and the perception that Chinese is a very useful language, regardless of China's economic strength. Although Simplified Chinese is the most oft-written language in China,[46] United States public notices and signage in Chinese are generally in Traditional Chinese.[47]


Religions of Chinese Americans (2012)[4][5]

  Protestantism (22%)
  Buddhism (15%)
  Other (3%)
  Not declared (52%)

The Chinese American community differs from the rest of the population in that the majority of Chinese Americans do not report a religious affiliation. 43% of Chinese Americans switched to a different religion and 54% stayed within their childhood religion within their lifetime. According to the Pew Research Center's 2012 Asian-American Survey, 52% of Chinese Americans aged 15 and over said that they didn't have any religious affiliation. This is also compared with the religious affiliation of Asian American average of 26% and a national average of 19%.

Of Chinese Americans who were religious, 15% were Buddhist, 8% were Catholic, and 22% belonged to a Protestant denomination. Fully half of Chinese Americans (52%)—including 55% of those born in the U.S. and 51% of those born overseas—describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated. Because Chinese Americans are the largest subgroup of Asian Americans, nearly half of all religiously unaffiliated Asians in the U.S. are of Chinese descent (49%).[4][5]


Chinese Americans are divided among many subgroups based on factors such as age, nativity, and socioeconomic status and politics between China and the United States, or about Chinese nationalism. Different subgroups of Chinese Americans also have radically different and sometimes very conflicting political priorities and goals.

In 2013, Chinese Americans were the least likely Asian American ethnicity to be affiliated with a political party.[48]

Nonetheless, Chinese Americans are clustered in majority-Democratic states and have increasingly voted Democratic in recent presidential elections, following the trend for Asian Americans in general.[49] Polling just before the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election found John Kerry was favored by 58% of Chinese Americans and George W. Bush by only 23%,[50] as compared with a 54/44 split in California, a 58/40 split in New York, and a 48/51 split in America as a whole on Election Day itself. In the 2012 presidential election, 81% of Chinese American voters selected Barack Obama over Mitt Romney.[51]

Chinese Americans were an important source of funds for Han revolutionaries during the later Qing dynasty, and Sun Yat-sen was raising money in America at the time of the Xinhai Revolution, which established the Republic of China. During the Cultural Revolution, Chinese Americans, as overseas Chinese in general, were viewed as capitalist traitors by the PRC government. This attitude changed dramatically in the late 1970s with the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. Increasingly, Chinese Americans were seen as sources of business and technical expertise and capital who could aid in China's economic and other development.


Economic growth in the People's Republic of China has given mainland Chinese more opportunities to emigrate. A 2011 survey showed that 60% of Chinese millionaires plan to emigrate and 40% of Chinese millionaires selecting the United States as the top destination for immigration.[52][53][54][55][56][57] The EB-5 Investment Visa allows many powerful Chinese to seek U.S. citizenship, and recent reports show that 75% of applicants for this visa in 2011 were Chinese.[58][59] Chinese multimillionaires benefited most from the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program in the U.S. Now, as long as one has at least US$500,000 to invest in projects listed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where it is possible to get an EB-5 green card that comes with permanent U.S. residency rights, but only in states specified by the pilot project.[60][61]


Main article: Model minority


Overall, as a demographic group, Chinese Americans are highly educated and earn higher incomes when compared to other demographic groups in the United States.[62] Educational achievements of Chinese in the United States are one of the highest among Asian Americans and also among all ethnic groups in the United States.[63] Chinese Americans often have some of the highest averages in tests such as SAT, GRE, etc. in the United States. Although verbal scores lag somewhat due to the influx of new immigrants, combined SAT scores have also been higher than for most Americans. Chinese Americans are the largest racial group on all but one of the nine fully established University of California campuses.[64][65][66][67]

They are the largest group among US National Merit Scholarship awardees in California, They are more likely to apply to competitively elite higher education institutions.[68][69][70][71] They also constitute 24% of all Olympic Seattle Scholarship winners, 33% of USA Math Olympiad winners, 15.5% of Putnam Math Competition winners, and 36% of Duke Talent Identification Grand Recognition Ceremony attendees from the Dallas Metropolitan area.[72][73]

International students studying at various higher education institutions around the United States account for a significant percentage of the international student body. International undergraduates, who make up 8% of Duke's undergraduate body, come from China more than any other country.[74][75] International Chinese students also comprise 11% of the nearly 5,800 freshmen at the University of Washington.[76] Mainland China is the top sending country of international students to the United States.[77][78] As a result of its growing economy and large population, more middle-class families from China are able to afford American college tuition, bringing an influx of Chinese students to study abroad in the United States. With a more diverse educational background and higher level of English proficiency, international Chinese students also value American degrees, as it gives them a notable advantage over their college-educated counterparts in China by the time they return to their native country to seek employment.[79]

Due to cultural factors, many Chinese international students are brand name conscious, choosing nationally ranked elite higher education institutes throughout the United States as their target schools.[80][81][82] International Chinese students are also widely found at many elite liberal arts colleges such as Barnard College and Mount Holyoke.[83][84] Students from China gravitate towards Americans colleges and universities for their high quality and the style of education which stresses interdisciplinary approaches, creativity, student participation and critical thinking.[82]

Chinese students comprise 18% of the international student population in America, and make up 32.2% of the undergraduate students and 48.8% of the graduate students. Chinese international students tend to gravitate towards technical majors that involve heavy use of mathematics and the natural sciences. 27.5% of international Chinese students study business management, finance, or economics, 19.2% study engineering, 11.5% study the life sciences and 10.6% study math or computer science.[85]

Largely driven by educational immigration, among American PhD recipients in fields related to science and engineering, 25% of the recipients are ethnic Chinese.[86] According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau of Labor Statistics, 51.8% of all Chinese Americans have attained at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 28.2% nationally and 49.9% for all Asian American groups. The Census reports that 54.7% of Chinese American men attained a bachelor's degree and 49.3% of Chinese American women attained a bachelor's degree. In addition, 26.6% of all Chinese Americans in the United States possess a master's, doctorate or other professional degree, compared to 20.3% for all Asian Americans, and is roughly two and a half times above the national average, with high educational attainment largely driven by educational immigration.[26][87]

Bachelor's Degree or Higher Educational Attainment[26]
Ethnicity Percent of Population
Taiwanese 73.6%
Chinese 51.8%
Japanese 47.4%
White American 29.5%
Vietnamese 25.2%
Total US Population 28.2%


Technology conglomerates such as eBay (pictured above) located within technology centers across the United States, including California's Silicon Valley, remain attractive hotspots for Chinese Americans and foreign-born Chinese entrepreneurs from all over the world.[88]

There has been a significant change in the perceptions about Chinese Americans. In as little as 100 years of American history, stereotypes of Chinese Americans have changed to portraying a hard working and educated minority. Thus, most Chinese Americans work as white collar professionals, many of whom are highly educated, salaried professionals whose work is largely self-directed in management, professional, and related occupations such as engineering, medicine, investment banking, law, and academia. 53.1% of Chinese Americans work in many white collar professions compared with 48.1% for all Asian Americans and a national average of 35.1%.[26] They make up 2% of working physicians in the United States.[89] Chinese Americans also make up a third of the Asian American high tech professional workforce and a tenth of the entire Silicon Valley workforce.[90] Chinese Americans also hold lower unemployment rates than the population average with a figure of 4.7% compared to a national rate of 5.9% in 2010.[26]

Many Chinese Americans have turned to the high tech center to jump-start potential computer and internet startups to capitalize on the regions wealth of venture capital, business expertise, and cultural and financial incentives for innovation. Ethnic Chinese have been successful in starting new firms in technology centers across the United States, including California's Silicon Valley. Chinese Americans have been disproportionately successful in high technology sectors, as evidenced by the Goldsea 100 Compilation of America's Most Successful Asian Entrepreneurs.[91] Chinese Americans accounted for 4% of people listed in the 1998 Forbes Hi Tech 100 List.[72]

Annalee Saxenian, a UC Berkeley professor, whose research interests include the contribution of Chinese immigrants on America's technology concludes that in Silicon Valley, carried out a study that showed that since 1998, one out of five high tech start-ups in Silicon Valley were led by Chinese Americans. During the same year, 5 of the 8 fastest growing companies had Chinese American CEO's except for Yahoo, whose Jerry Yang was a founder but not a CEO. In Silicon Valley there are at least 2 to 3 dozen Chinese American organizations according to professional interests each with at least 100 members. One prominent organization of which is the Committee of 100.[92] Immigrants from China and Taiwan were key founders in 12.8% of all Silicon Valley start-ups between 1995 and 2005.[93] Almost 6% of the immigrants who founded companies in the innovation/manufacturing-related services field are from China and Taiwan.[94]

Research funded by the Public Policy Institute of California indicates that in 1996, 1,786 Silicon Valley technology companies with $12.5 billion in sales and 46,000 employees were run by Indian or Chinese executives. Moreover, the pace of entrepreneurship among local immigrants is increasing rapidly. While Chinese or Indian executives are at the helm of 13% of the Silicon Valley technology businesses started between 1980 and 1985, they are running 27% of the more than 4,000 businesses started between 1991 and 1996.[95] Start-up firms remain a primary source for new ideas and innovation for Chinese American internet entrepreneurs. Many of them are employed or directly engaged in new start-up activities. The proportional share of start-up firms by ethnic Chinese in Silicon Valley skyrocketed from 9% in 1980-1984 to about 20% between 1995-1998.[96] By 2006, Chinese American internet entrepreneurs continued to start 20% of all Silicon Valley start-up firms, leading 2000 Silicon Valley companies, and employing 58,000 workers.[86] They still continue to own about 20% of all information technology companies that were founded in Silicon Valley since 1980.

Numerous professional organizations in perspective in the 1990s as a support network for fellow Chinese American high tech start-ups in the valley.[97] Between 1980 and 1999, 17% of the 11,443 high-tech firms in Silicon Valley - including some 40 publicly traded firms were controlled by ethnic Chinese. In 1990, Chinese Americans made up a third of the Asian American high tech professional workforce or 11% of the entire Silicon Valley professional workforce. In 1998, Chinese Americans managed 2001 firms, employing 41,684 workers, and ran up 13.2 billion in sales. They also account for 17% of all Silicon Valley firm owners, 10% of the professional workforce in the Valley, and 13.5% of the total sales accounting for less than 1% of the U.S. population at the time.[98]

Though Chinese Americans are also noted for their high rates of self-employment, as they have an extensive history of self-employment dating back to the California Gold Rush in the 1880s,[99] However, as more Chinese Americans seek higher education to elevate themselves socioeconomically, rates of self-employment are generally lower than population average.[100] In 2007, there were over 109,614 Chinese-owned employer firms, employing more than 780,000 workers, and generating more than $128 billion in revenue.[101]

Among Chinese-owned U.S. firms, 40% were in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector; the accommodation and food services sector; and the repair, maintenance, personal, and laundry services sector. Chinese-owned U.S. firms comprised 2% of all U.S. businesses in these sectors. Wholesale trade and accommodation and food services accounted for 50.4% of Chinese-owned business revenue. 66,505 or 15.7% of Chinese-owned firms had receipts of $250,000 or more compared with 2% for all U.S. businesses.[101][102][103][104][105][106]


Chinese Americans tend to follow the residence pattern set by other Americans. Members of the community believe in the symbolic importance of owning homes; accordingly, Chinese Americans tend to save money and make other monetary sacrifices earlier on in order to purchase their own homes as soon as possible.

With their above average educational attainment rates, Chinese Americans from all socioeconomic backgrounds have achieved significant advances in their educational levels, income, life expectancy, and other social indicators as the financial and socioeconomic opportunities offered by the United States have lifted many Chinese Americans out of poverty, bringing them into the ranks of America's middle class, upper middle class, as well as the enjoyment of substantial well being.[107]

Chinese Americans are more likely to own homes than the general American population. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 65% of Chinese Americans owned a home, higher than the total population's rate of 54%.[108][109] In 2003, real estate economist Gary Painter of the University of Southern California Lusk Center for Real Estate Research found out that when comparing homeowners with similar income levels Los Angeles, the Chinese-American home-ownership rate is 20% higher than Whites; in San Francisco, 23% higher; and in the New York metropolitan area, 18% higher.[110] A 2008 Asian Real Estate Association of America report released on behalf of the American community survey, Chinese Americans living in the states of Texas, New York, and California all had high home ownership rates that were significantly near or above the general population average.[111]

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Chinese American men had a full-time median income of $57,061 and Chinese American women had a median income of $47,224. Chinese Americans also have one of the highest median household incomes among most demographic groups in the United States, which is 30% higher than the national average but is slightly lower compared with the Asian American population.[26]

Median Household Income: 2010[26]
Ethnicity Household Income
Taiwanese $68,809
Asian $67,022
Chinese $65,273
Non-Hispanic White $52,480
Scottish $52,444
Korean $50,316
Total US Population $50,046

Despite positive economic indicators, a number of economic deterrents have been noted to afflict the Chinese American community. While median income remains above some ethnic groups in the United States, studies in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis revealed that Asian men have the highest rate of persistent long-term unemployment.[112]

Ethnic minorities

While the vast majority of Chinese Americans are of the Han ethnicity, there are also some ethnic minorities in China who have immigrated to the United States directly from the People's Republic of China.

A community numbering 20,000 Korean-Chinese (Chaoxianzu (Chinese: 朝鲜族) or Joseonjok (Hangul: 조선족)) is centered in Flushing, Queens, while New York City is also home to the largest Tibetan population outside China, India, and Nepal, also centered in Queens.[113] There are some Zhuang people, the largest ethnic minorty of China, in the United States.[114] The presence of Miao[114] Uyghur[115] and Manchu Americans[116] has also been attested.

Although considered ethnically the same as other Han Chinese, the Muslim Hui people are registered as an ethnic minority by the Chinese government. Ther are some Hui in the United States, and some have retained their religious and cultural practices in America.[117]


A study was carried out with greater than 200,000 genotypes from people of East Asian ancestry.[118] The continental populations are from the Human Genome Diversity Panel (Cambodian, Yi, Daur, Mongolian, Lahu, Dai, Hezhen, Miaozu, Naxi, Oroqen, She, Tu, Tujia, Naxi, Xibo, and Yakut), HapMap (Han Chinese and Japanese), as well as East Asian or East Asian American subjects of Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino and Chinese ancestry. A clear understanding of the genetic substructure of any population helps in studies of complex diseases, and design and execution of association tests. The results of this study also identified markers that can not only reduce type 1 errors in future genetic disease studies, but also identify homogeneous groups and hence make this study more powerful.

The Chinese American groups are consisted of subjects with origin from North China, South China and Taiwan. This group was paired with the Han Chinese from Beijing, and results showed that the population differentiation values was small (<0.0025). There is substantially less genetic substructure between Han Chinese and Chinese American, compared with that between Han Chinese, Japanese and Korean groups, yet there is still a substructure in principal component, according to the split half reliability test.

Another study aiming to estimate the cardiometabolic risk profile of Chinese adults with diabetes is also useful to reveal the personal genomics of Chinese American.[119] In this study, all subjects are over 18 yeas old and noninstitutionalized. Results are derived from a complex, multistage, probability sampling design and showed that 12607 out of 98658 Chinese adults are with diabetes, based on the criteria of 2010 American Diabetes Association. In addition, the study reaches a conclusion that for those Chinese adults defined with diatebetes, cardiometabolic risk factors were highly prevalent, including metabolic syndrome, systolic blood pressure that is higher than 140mmHg, low fruit and vegetable intake, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol that is higher than 110mg/dL.


The statistics of diabetes in Asian American population is that, approximately 10% of the entire population are diabetic, and in which 90-95% are type II diabetes.[120][121] The current situation is that there are some challenges in diagnosing diabetes in many Asian Americans. The main obstacle is attributed to the fact that many clinical features along with risks factors associated with diabetes are obtained from studies that focus on Caucasian populations, which might result in misdiagnoses between type I and type II diabetes for Asian Americans. The reason why classic features of type I and type II diabetes in America might not apply to Asian American population is about shared absence of common HLA DR-DQ genotype, low prevalence of positive anti-islet antibodies and low BMI in both types of diabetes.[122]

Some other studies pointed out that for people of Asian descent and without diabetes, their insulin resistance level is higher than non-diabetic people of Caucasian descent.  Thus, Asian Americans are relatively more predisposed to develop type II diabetes.

Genetic mental illness is stigmatized in China. A study compared the attitude of Chinese American towards mental illness with genetic causes and the that of European American and found out that there is a perception of eugenic existing among Chinese Americans. [123]Therefore, in order to reduce the stigma, people should devote more efforts in this population.

The journal also highlights the idea of genetic essentialism defined as the following: genes are largely deterministic of individual characteristics and behavior. There is a separation between the normal and the deviant which drives the process of stigma labeling. On the other hand, since genetic diseases can be passed on from one generation to other, some mental illness are shared in a family, stigmatizing members involved as a whole. Another viewpoint relevant to genetic essentialism is that, since genes are difficult to modify, the genetic mental illness is likely to persist and so is the stigma. Among Chinese American population, diseases with genetic basis are regarded as more serious than those without.

The journal provides some hypotheses. First, Chinese Americans are more in favor of eugenic policies than European Americans. Secondly, more stigma would be generated towards genetic attributions of any diseases in Chinese American population. These two hypotheses are based on the long history of eugenics in China.

Notable Chinese Americans

See also


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