Asian people

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Asian people [1] (or Asians, sometimes referred to as Asiatic people) [2] are the people of Asia. The term may also refer to their descendants.


Meanings by region

Anglophone Africa and Caribbean

In parts of anglophone Africa, especially East Africa and in parts of the Caribbean, the term "Asian" is more commonly associated with people of South Asian origin, particularly Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans. [3] In South Africa the term "Asian" is also usually synonymous with the Indian race group. [4] East Asians in South Africa, including Chinese were classified either as Coloureds or as honorary whites. [4]

Arab States of the Persian Gulf

In the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, the term "Asian" generally refers to people of South Asian and Southeast Asian descent due to the large Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Filipino expatriate population in these countries. [5] [6] [7] However, there are instances where the term is used solely to refer to those of South Asian descent. [8]


The Australian Census includes Central Asia. The Australian Census includes four regions of Asia in its official definition. Defined by the 2006–2011 Australian Census, three broad groups have the word Asian included in their name: Central and Southern Asian, South-East Asian and North-East Asian. West Asians are classified as North African and Middle Easterners. [9]


The Canadian Census uses the term 'Asian' pan-continentally. In its presentation of the "ethnic origin" results of the 2016 census, Statistics Canada under the category "Asian origins" includes: West Central Asian and Middle Eastern (includes "Arab, not otherwise specified"), South Asian, East and Southeast Asian, and "other" Asian origins. [10]

New Zealand

New Zealand's census undertaken by Statistics New Zealand defines the Asian to include people of Bangladeshi, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, Cambodian and Thai ancestries. [11] In less formal contexts, the term Asian often does not refer to South Asian people. [12] Those of West or Central Asian origin are excluded from the term.


Statistics Norway uses the term 'Asian' pan-continentally and considers people of Asian background to be people from all Asian countries. [13] [14]


Statistics Sweden uses the term 'Asian' to refer to immigrants of Asian background from all Asian countries, including Western Asia/the Middle East. [15] [16] West Asians make up the largest region of Asian descent in the country, with Iraq once being the largest group of Asian immigrants. [17]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the term "Asian" is more commonly associated with people of South Asian origin, particularly Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans. [3] [18] Most respondents to the UK 2001 Census of non-Chinese East Asian and Southeast Asian descent chose to write-in their ethnicity in the "Other Ethnic Group" category rather than the "Other Asian" category, reflecting the association of the word Asian in the UK with South Asian. [19] Despite there being a strong presence of East Asians in the United Kingdom there are considerably more South Asians, for example the 2001 Census recorded 1.05 million people of Indian origin and 247,000 of Chinese origin in the UK. [20] Common origins in the "Other Asian" category include Filipinos, Afghans and Nepalese. [21] Peter J. Aspinall of the Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, recommends privileging the term "South Asian" over the term "Asian", since the term "Asian" is a "contested term". [18]

United States

Asian ancestries as defined by the 2000 U.S. Census. RegionsofAsia-Census.PNG
Asian ancestries as defined by the 2000 U.S. Census.

In 1968, an Asian activist conference decided on favoring the name "Asian American" over the competing terms—"yellow", "Mongoloid", "Asiatic", and "Oriental"—since the Filipinos at the meeting thought they were "brown" rather than "yellow" and the conference thought the term "Oriental" was Eurocentric, since they originate from lands "east" only from Europe's standpoint and the term "Oriental" suggested to them "passivity". [22]

Earlier Census forms from 1980 and prior listed particular Asian ancestries as separate groups along with White and Black or Negro. [23] Previously, Asian Americans were classified as "other". [24] But the 1980 Census marked the first general analyses of Asians as a group, combining several individual ancestry groups into "Asian or Pacific Islander." By the 1990 Census, Asian or Pacific Islander (API) was included as an explicit category, although respondents had to select one particular ancestry. [25] [26] [27]

The 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census Bureau definition of the Asian race is: "people having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent (for example, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam)". [28]

Sandra S. Lee et al. (2001) said, in regards to the categories of the 2000 US Census, that it is difficult to determine why Asian Americans are a "race" while Latino and Hispanic are an "ethnic group." Lee said, referring to the Hispanic or Latino category, that the category of Asian Americans, quite similarly, comprises different populations of diverse origins. Lee said that people of South Asian origin were categorically identified as "Hindu," regardless of their religion, in the early 20th century. Lee said that the policy changed to classify people from the Indian subcontinent as "white." Lee said that, more recently, South Asian Americans were added to the long list of groups that comprise the category of Asian American. Referring to their classification as "Asian," Lee said that, in the United States, the classification of people from the Indian subcontinent depends on their historical location. [29]

In 1930 and 1940, Indian Americans were identified as a separate race, Hindu , and in 1950 and 1960 they were racially classified as Other Race, and then in 1970 they were classified as White. Since 1980, Indians and all other South Asians have been classified as part of the Asian ethnic group. [30] Sociologist Madhulika Khandelwal described how " a result of activism, South Asians came to be included as 'Asians' in the census only in the 80's. Prior to that many South Asians had been checking 'Caucasian' or 'Other'." [31]

Respondents can also report their specific ancestry, e.g.: Okinawan, etc. Someone reporting these ancestries but no race would be classified as "Asian". Unlike Southeast Asians, Afghan Americans, Arab Americans, Armenian Americans, Assyrian Americans, Azerbaijani Americans, Georgian Americans, Israeli Americans, Kurdish Americans, Turkish Americans, Iranian Americans and Central Asian Americans have not lobbied to be included as Asians by the U.S. Census Board. [32]

In normal American usage Asian does not refer to the people from the Pacific Islands who are usually called Pacific Islanders. [33] The term "Asians and Pacific Islanders" or "Asia/Pacific" was used on the 1990 US Census. [34]

However, in the 2000 US Census, the Asian or Pacific Islander category was separated into two categories, "Asian" and "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander". [35]

See also

Related Research Articles

An ethnic group or an ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups. Those attributes can include common sets of traditions, ancestry, language, history, society, culture, nation, religion, or social treatment within their residing area. The term ethnicity is often times used interchangeably with the term nation, particularly in cases of ethnic nationalism, and is separate from the related concept of races.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asian Americans</span> Americans of Asian ancestry

Asian Americans are Americans of Asian ancestry. Although this term had historically been used for all the indigenous peoples of the continent of Asia, the usage of the term "Asian" by the United States Census Bureau only includes people with origins or ancestry from the Far East, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent and excludes people with ethnic origins in certain parts of Asia, including West Asia who are now categorized as Middle Eastern Americans. The "Asian" census category includes people who indicate their race(s) on the census as "Asian" or reported entries such as "Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani, Malaysian, and Other Asian". In 2020, Americans who identified as Asian alone (19,886,049) or in combination with other races (4,114,949) made up 7.2% of the U.S. population.

Mixed-race people are people of more than one race or ethnicity. A variety of terms have been used both historically and presently for mixed race people in a variety of contexts, including multiethnic, polyethnic, occasionally bi-ethnic, Métis, Muwallad, Colored, Dougla, half-caste, ʻafakasi, mestizo, Melungeon, quadroon, octoroon, sambo/zambo, Eurasian, hapa, hāfu, Garifuna, pardo, and Guran. A number of these terms are now considered offensive, in addition to those that were initially coined for pejorative use.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pacific Islander</span> Person from the Pacific Islands

Pacific Islanders, Pasifika, Pasefika, or rarely Pacificers are the peoples of the Pacific Islands. As an ethnic/racial term, it is used to describe the original peoples—inhabitants and diasporas—of any of the three major subregions of Oceania.

Race and ethnicity in the United States census, defined by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the United States Census Bureau, are the self-identified categories of race or races and ethnicity chosen by residents, with which they most closely identify, and indicate whether they are of Hispanic or Latino origin.

Hapa is a Hawaiian word for someone of multiracial ancestry. In Hawaii, the word refers to any person of mixed ethnic heritage, regardless of the specific mixture. The term is used for any multiracial person of partial East Asian, Southeast Asian, or Pacific Islander mixture in California. In what can be characterized as trans-cultural diffusion or the wave model, this latter usage has also spread to Massachusetts, Ohio, and Oregon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Majority minority in the United States</span> Places with less than 50% non-Hispanic white population

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Race and ethnicity in the United States</span>

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The racial classification of Indian Americans has varied over the years and across institutions. Originally, neither the courts nor the census bureau classified Indian Americans as a race because there were only negligible numbers of Indian immigrants in the United States. Early Indian Americans were often denied their civil rights, leading to close affiliations with African Americans. For most of America's early history, the government only recognized two racial classifications, white or colored. Due to immigration laws of the time, those deemed colored were often stripped of their American citizenship or denied the ability to become citizens. For these reasons, various South Asians in America took the government to court to try and be considered white instead of colored. After advocacy from the Indian American community, the racial category of Asian Indian was finally introduced on the 1980 Census.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Demographics of Asian Americans</span> Demographics of Asian Americans

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asian Pacific American</span> An American ethnic descriptive term

Asian/Pacific American (APA) or Asian/Pacific Islander (API) or Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) or Asian American and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) is a term sometimes used in the United States when including both Asian and Pacific Islander Americans.

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  35. "Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity". White House. 1997. Archived from the original on February 8, 2004. Retrieved August 27, 2008. The Native Hawaiians presented compelling arguments that the standards must facilitate the production of data to describe their social and economic situation and to monitor discrimination against Native Hawaiians in housing, education, employment, and other areas. Under the current standards for data on race and ethnicity, Native Hawaiians comprise about three percent of the Asian and Pacific Islander population. By creating separate categories, the data on the Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islander groups will no longer be overwhelmed by the aggregate data of the much larger Asian groups. Native Hawaiians will comprise about 60 percent of the new category. The Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander population groups are well defined; moreover, there has been experience with reporting in separate categories for the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population groups. The 1990 census included "Hawaiian," "Samoan," and "Guamanian" as response categories to the race question. In addition, two of the major tests conducted as part of the current review (the NCS and the RAETT) used "Hawaiian" and/or "Native Hawaiian," "Samoan," "Guamanian," and "Guamanian or Chamorro" as response options to the race question. These factors facilitate breaking apart the current category.