Every 10 years the U.S. Census Bureau reveals some often surprising facts about the population of the United States, including the astonishing number of languages spoken across the country: now estimated to be more than 300. Most American businesses and institutions recognize that Spanish is spoken in many Latino households and that an estimated 53 million Latinos lived in the United States in 2012, a six-fold increase since 2000. But an often overlooked community – the incredibly diverse and fast growing Asian-origin population of 14.68 million people – is becoming more and more a recognized part of the American scene, and more of an economic powerhouse.
It also has its publications and radio stations. Cable television often offers Asian programming in markets with large Asian populations, and in locations like Houston (VAN-TV), Los Angeles (Saigon TV and VBS Television) and San Diego (Little Saigon TV) some stations are now exclusively broadcasting entirely in foreign languages such as Vietnamese.
According to Census statistics, while Spanish has had the largest increase in the number of speakers since 1980, Vietnamese has had the largest percentage increase in speakers – seven times the number there were in 1980 at the height of the huge wave of Vietnamese immigration following the end of the war in Vietnam in 1975.
Vietnamese are the fourth largest Asian group with an estimated 1.724 million people in updated Census figures for 2013. Larger Asian nationalities were the Chinese with 3.35 million, Asian Indian with 2.84 million and Filipino with 2.56 million. More than 50 per cent of Vietnamese live in Western States, but the fastest growth is occurring in the South.
Compared with other Asians, Vietnamese were more likely to become naturalized citizens, according to the Immigration Policy Institute. Sixty-four per cent of Vietnamese households owned their own home, the highest percentage of all Asian groups. Vietnamese-Americans tend to register to vote at a higher rate than other, voting Republican more than they do Democrat although that number is changing among Vietnamese born in the United States.
Vietnamese were more likely to study English and gain proficiency, and they more likely to become naturalized citizens. More than one million Vietnamese older than 5 speak Vietnamese at home, making it the seventh most spoken language tongue in the United States. While they lagged behind other Asian groups in having a college education, they were making quick gains in earning advanced degrees, especially in medicine, the sciences, accounting and the legal profession.
A Small Business Administration study showed that the Vietnamese were becoming a community of small business owners and founders: they own fully 15 per cent of all Asian-owned firms – a total of 229,149 businesses – with $28.8 billion in receipts in 2009.
Fifty-nine per cent of these businesses are involved in repairs, maintenance, personal and laundry services. But Americans living in urban areas in California, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, south Florida and Texas are now aware of the number of Vietnamese-owned supermarkets, mini-malls, nail salons and apartment complexes often doing a bustling business in comparison to non-Asian owned enterprises. Thirteen per cent of Vietnamese businesses are now retail, or offer scientific, technical or professional services.
Although, according to Census statistics, they are not as academically or financial accomplished as East Asian nationalities like the Chinese and Koreans and South Asians such as Indians, they are becoming upwardly mobile. In 1989, 35 per cent of Vietnamese lived below the poverty line. In 1999, that figure had shrunk to just 16 percent compared with the overall national average of 12 percent. That number is now believed to be identical with the national figure.
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