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20.6 Million People in the U.S. Identify as Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander

Lindsay M. Monte and Hyon B. Shin

There are 20.6 million people who identify as Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander alone (not in combination with another race), making up 6.2% of the nation’s population, according to the 2020 Census.

But it’s not until these numbers are broken down that the incredible diversity of this population becomes clear.

Using recently released data from both the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey’s (ACS) 5-year estimates, we detail the diversity of the racial and ethnic composition of this population and its geographic distribution.

In acknowledgement of the diversity of languages spoken in the United States, the Census Bureau disseminated materials for the 2020 Census in 59 different languages other than English, including 23 languages that originated in Asia.

Race

The 2020 Census shows:

  • 19.9 million people identified as Asian alone and 4.1 million people identified as Asian in combination with another race.
  • Roughly 690,000 people identified as Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (NHPI) alone but almost 900,000 identified as NHPI in combination with another race.
  • Race and Hispanic origin are measured separately by the Census Bureau: 267,330 identified as both Asian alone (race) and Hispanic, and 67,948 people identified as both NHPI alone (race) and Hispanic.

Diversity

The Asian diaspora is extremely diverse. Using data from the 2016-2020 5-year ACS, the Census Bureau published data for 21 different detailed groups in the United States under the umbrella of Asian alone, including 4.2 million people reporting Chinese (excluding Taiwanese) and 3,526 people reporting Okinawan.

Among NHPI (alone or in combination) individuals, there were roughly 620,000 who identified as Native Hawaiian, 212,000 as Samoan, 156,000 as Chamorro, 65,000 as Tongan, and roughly 50,000 as Fijian.

In acknowledgement of the diversity of languages spoken in the United States, the Census Bureau disseminated materials for the 2020 Census in 59 different languages other than English, including 23 languages that originated in Asia: Bengali, Burmese, Chinese, Khmer, Gujarati, Hindi, Hmong, Ilocano, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Punjabi, Sinhala, Tagalog, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Where They Were Born

The U.S. Asian and Pacific Islander populations have diverse backgrounds, according to the ACS’s most recent 5-year estimates: 

Where They Live

The Asian and NHPI population was not evenly distributed across the United States, according to the 2020 Census:

  • Only three states — Hawaii, California, and New Jersey — had 10% or more of their population identify as Asian alone.
  • Hawaii, Alaska, and Utah were the only states where at least 1% of the population identified as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone.
  • Hawaii, Washington, and Nevada are the three states with the highest percentage of the population who identify as Asian in combination with another race.
  • Hawaii, Nevada, and Alaska are the three states with the highest percentage of the population who identify as NHPI in combination with another race.

The population profiles of major Metropolitan Statistical Areas (“metro areas”) across the country reflect the geographic dispersion of the Asian and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander population. The 2016-2020 ACS 5-year shows:

More data on detailed Asian and NHPI groups from the 2020 Census will be released in summer 2023.

About the Data

The 2020 Census counted every person living in the United States and the five U.S. territories on April 1, 2020. The 2020 Census Data Quality website provides information about 2020 Census data quality.

The ACS is the premier source for detailed population and housing information about our nation, allowing for more frequent data on America’s communities than the decennial census. ACS 5-year estimates are period estimates that represent data collected within a 60-month period.

Because the ACS is a survey based on a sample of the population rather than a census of the entire population, the ACS estimates presented here are subject to sampling and non-sampling error. Technical documentation and more information about ACS data quality are available on the ACS Technical Documentation website.

Readers should note that the Census Bureau measures race and Hispanic ethnicity separately in accordance with the 1997 Office of Management and Budget’s Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity.

Additional information about the Census Bureau’s coding of race alone or in combination can be found in this recent America Counts story and in this technical paper.

Lindsay M. Monte and Hyon B. Shin are researchers in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.

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