[Resources] Southeast Asian American Community Statistics

Whether you’re a grant-writer, in higher ed, or an artist or writer preparing for an exhibition, there are times when you will want to have some community statistics you can refer to for comparison and contrast.

The biggest resource is of course the Census information but it can be difficult for some beginners to access all of the key data. Fortunately, the Washington D.C.-based Southeast Asian Resource Action Center has at least two statistical profiles available online, for 2000 and 2010. These are almost always my first stop when looking for a place to start with the data. The Southeast Asian Resource Action Center maintains a variety of other publications of interest in several different areas.

For the Lao community, I find it particularly helpful to look at the work of Dr. Mark Pfeiffer, who broke down the census area our populations by metro area for 2000 and 2010. He has figures for the Hmong in 2000 and 2010 as well. The Cambodian community figures can be found there for 2000 and 2010 in a similar format. The Vietnamese figures for 2000 and 2010 may be of interest for many researchers as well. He helpfully includes the 1990 figures in the 2000 summaries.

The Joshua Project has some good leads for statistics on a number of Southeast Asian communities including the Iu Mien, Khmu, Tai Dam, Lue, and others that may be helpful, although it is difficult to determine the full geographic distribution for many.

As an interesting historical resource, many with an interest in Lao immigration and refugee resettlement history in the US may want to visit David North Voradeth Ditthavong’s 1989 article, “Profile of Some Good Places For Lao People To Live In the United States.” Of particular interest for scholars and community members is the number of cities that are now major enclaves of Lao immigrants and refugees compared to what was recommended at the time. Minneapolis and Saint Paul, for example, are conspicuously absent from this document, as are San Diego, Seattle, Fresno and the Central Valley of California.

In the introduction to the rationales for the profiled cities, the author explains, “The first step in the selection process was to eliminate communities in States, such as California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, where high proportions of the Lao are on cash assistance. Next, the biggest cities, such as New York and Philadelphia, were eliminated because Lao often live in unattractive areas of those cities. Next, very small communities, with less than 100 individuals, were eliminated. Then communities that the Lao were leaving were taken off the list.”History certainly went in a very different direction from most of these recommendations.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice has a 2011 publication, Community of Contrast with a recent national overview of interest for many communities that can put many questions into consideration. It will soon need significant updating.

The Pew Research Center also has a variety of resources available to look at for those interested in Asian American and Southeast Asian American community statistics. The National Asian American Survey conspicuously lacks Lao figures, however it does make an effort to include many other communities in the process of identifying various opinions on policy and politics in the US. The Center for American Progress has several fact sheets on the Southeast Asian American communities worth looking at, including political views. The Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans maintains several reports and data specific to residents of Minnesota, but may be helpful for comparison.

For those of you looking for statistics on the various countries Southeast Asian Americans come from, I would strongly suggest starting with the figures from the CIA World Factbook, which aggregates much of the reliable public data on these nations as they’ve been reported.

But these are some of the places I start when faced with projects that need statistics and data reflecting who we’ve been and where we might be heading. What are some of your favorite resources and data sets you like to turn to for questions on the Southeast Asian American communities in diaspora?

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