Asian Americans in Metro Boston: Growth, Diversity, and Complexity
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BOOMING ASIAN AMERICAN POPULATION IN METRO BOSTON CHALLENGES "MODEL MINORITY" STEREOTYPE
Cambridge, MA-May 27, 2004---The Asian American population in metro Boston grew more than 10 times faster than the rate of total population growth across the region during the 1990s, according to a new study by the Institute for Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.
More than a dozen Asian ethnic subgroups - from Chinese to Hmong, Thai, and Pakistani - form metro Boston's Asian American population, which now totals almost a quarter million people and increased 70 percent during the last decade, according to the report. The new study is being released in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by the Metro Boston Equity Initiative of The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University.
The most dramatic growth over the 1990s has occurred outside the City of Boston, according to the UMass-Boston researchers. While Boston saw the largest numeric increase in the Asian American population (13,896), towns posting the fastest growth rates were Malden, Shrewsbury, Quincy, Burlington, and Waltham.
"The Asian American population highlights the increasingly multi-ethnic nature of the metro Boston region," comments Gary Orfield, co-founder of The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University (CRP). "When we think about race in the metro region today, we cannot think only about Whites and Blacks. Asian Americans and Latinos are a substantial and growing portion of the regional community."
Within this fast growing population, the study reveals, are 15 Asian ethnic subgroups that have at least 500 members in metro Boston, led by the Chinese (almost 78,500), Indians (over 41,000), and Vietnamese (over 31,500). Other groups include Cambodians, Koreans, Japanese, Filipinos, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, and Hmong.
"Asian Americans in metro Boston cannot be lumped together indiscriminately or described in simple, broad-brush terms," says Paul Watanabe, lead author of the study. "In the past, Asian Americans have been characterized simplistically and monolithically as either hordes of immigrant invaders or more recently as model minorities. Our study highlights how Asian Americans in the metro area run the gamut from rich to poor, well to poorly educated, city to suburban dwellers, professional to manual laborers. Very often, individual Asian subgroups occupy different locations along these divides."
Settlement patterns among Asian ethnic subgroups are strikingly varied. While the Chinese are heavily concentrated in Boston, Quincy, and Malden, Cambodians are centered in Lowell with sizable shares in Lynn, Fall River, and Revere. The Hmong have its greatest numbers in Fitchburg, while Indians are the most populous Asian ethnic group in Waltham, Framingham, Burlington, and Shrewsbury.
Economic diversity among metro Boston Asian Americans is also dramatic. Average per capita income for Indians in 2000 was $31,940-exceeding the $28,822 figure for Whites. At the other extreme, average per capita income for the Hmong was $8,130 and $10,353 for the Cambodians-lower than for Latinos ($12,546) and Blacks ($16,230).
Asian Americans make up disproportionate shares of both the upper and lower ends of the educational and occupational spectrums. The percent of Asian Americans with graduate or professional degrees in 2000, as well as the percent with less than a ninth grade education, were each more than double the shares found in the total population. Asian Americans in 2000 were overrepresented in professions such as computing, mathematics, architecture and engineering, the sciences, and healthcare, while they were also overrepresented in fields such as food preparation and serving as well as production.
Other findings from the study include the following:
"As this study shows, great diversity exists within each of the area's broader racial or ethnic groups," said Orfield. "Rapidly growing Asian populations in many western suburbs are comprised primarily of highly-educated, professional, upper-income homeowners. In contrast, many of the Asians residing in urbanized areas such as Boston, Lowell, and Lynn tend to have lower incomes, less education, work in service occupations, and rent their homes. Public policies that aim to promote social and economic opportunity for the region's minority groups must recognize the diverse conditions present within these groups."
The Metro Boston Equity Initiative at The Civil Rights Project (CRP) is a year-long research and community outreach effort designed to study the region's changing demographics and to investigate patterns of segregation and social inequality as the metro area becomes increasingly multi-racial and multi-cultural. It focuses on the seven county metropolitan areas, stretching between the New Hampshire and Rhode Island borders, and from Worcester in the west to Plymouth in the east. The Initiative is funded by the Foley Hoag Foundation, the Hyams Foundation, the Boston Foundation, and the John Hancock Foundation, and its community advisory committee includes leaders from many communities and organizations in the Boston region.
The Institute for Asian American Studies (IAAS) at the University of Massachusetts Boston was established in 1993 with support from Asian American communities and the state legislature. The IAAS utilizes resources and expertise from the University and the community to conduct research on Asian Americans; to strengthen and further Asian American involvement in political, economic, social, and cultural life; and to improve opportunities and campus life for Asian American faculty, staff, and students and for those interested in Asian Americans.
History of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (from U.S. Census Bureau):
In 1978, a joint congressional resolution established Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. The first 10 days of May were chosen to coincide with two key anniversaries: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants (May 7, 1843) and the completion of the transcontinental railroad (May 10, 1869). In 1992, Congress expanded the week to a month-long celebration.
For Media Inquiries:
Director, Institute for Asian American Studies, Professor of Political Science
University of Massachusetts, Boston
Phone: (617) 287-5652
Professor of Education and Social Policy,
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Co-Director, The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University
Phone: (617) 496-4824
The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University
Metro Boston Equity Initiative
Phone: (617) 496-4283