The term Asian American is used in the United States by federal, state, and local governments to designate people of Asian descent, including Pacific Islanders (residents from the Pacific islands that are under U. S. jurisdiction, such as Guam, American Somoa, and the Marshall Islands). Although historically relevant and geographically appropriate, inclusion of the Pacific islands in the generic term Asian American stemmed from administrative convenience for the federal government rather than from race or ethnic identifications.

Reflecting deep-seated prejudices against people of color, in 1917 the Congress of the United States created the Asiatic Barred Zone, which stretched from Japan in the east to India in the west. People from within the zone were banned from immigration. The geographic concept was incorporated into the Immigration Act of 1924 (Oriental Exclusion Act), a law that had a profound impact on the demographic structure of Asian-American communities as well as on U.S. foreign policy. Although it is generally assumed that the term Asian American has a racial basis, particularly from the perspective of U.S. immigration history, the racial overtone is muted by the inclusion in the 1980 census of people from India in the ”Asian and Pacific Islander” category; they had been classified as ”white” prior to 1980.


Asian immigration can be divided into two periods: the old and the new. The old immigration period was marked by nonoverlapping waves of distinct Asian populations who came largely in response to the sociopolitical conditions in their homelands and to the shortage of unskilled labor experienced by special-interest groups in the United States. The new immigration was characterized by the simultaneous arrival of people from the Asia-Pacific Triangle, spurred principally by the 1965 legislative reforms in U.S. immigration policy, shortages of certain skilled and professional labor, the involvement of United States in Asia, and the sociopolitical situations in Asia in the context of the Cold War. In between these two waves, there was another wave of Asian immigrants, who came between the end of World War II and the mid 1960s, though the number was small and involved principally Filipinos and their families because of their services in the US military. This group came outside the fifty-person quota allowed for Filipinos as a result of the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1935 when the Republic of the Philippines was granted independence.

The year 1848 marked the beginning of Asian immigration to the United States when the coastal Chinese—mostly from Guangdong—responded to the California gold rush and failures in the rural economy of China. Within fewer than thirty-five years, the Chinese became the first group in U.S. history to be legally barred from becoming citizens because of race. The 1882 Anti-Chinese Exclusion Act was followed by an influx of immigrants from the southern prefectures of Japan during the last decade of the nineteenth century—until that flow ended abruptly with the so-called ”Gentlemen’s Agreement” of 1907-1908. Unlike the termination of Chinese immigration, and reflecting Japan’s position as a world power, cessation of entry by Japanese was accomplished through a diplomatic compromise between the two governments rather than through an act of Congress. Without a continuous flow of Japanese farm workers to ease the labor shortage on the Hawaiian plantations, contractors turned to the Philippine Islands— which had been a U.S. possession since 1898—for cheap labor. From 1906 to the independence of the Republic of the Philippines in 1946, over 125,000 (predominantly single) Filipino males, the majority of them from the Ilocos region, labored on Hawaiian sugar plantations.

The exclusions of Asians enacted into the National Origins Act of 1924 essentially remained in effect until 1965. By Act of Congress in 1943, however, 105 Chinese were permitted to immigrate annually, and in 1952, under the McCarran-Walter Act, a token one hundred persons from each Asian country were allowed entry. The symbolic opening of immigration doors to Asians was attributed to Walter Judd, a congressman from Minnesota who had spent many years in China as a medical missionary. The provision of a quota of one hundred persons seemed to be an important moral victory for those who wanted the elimination of the exclusion act, but it was in fact a restatement of the 1924 national origin quota basis for immigration.

The new stream of Asian immigrants to the United States reflected the 1965 legislative reform that allowed an equal number of persons (20,000) from each country outside the Western Hemisphere to immigrate. Furthermore, family unification and needed skills became the major admission criteria, replacing national origin. Besides China and the Philippines, Korea and the Indian sub-continent became, and continue to be, the major countries of origin of many newly arrived Asian immigrants. Refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos began to enter the United States in 1975, and by 1990, peoples from the former Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) had become the third-largest Asian group, following Chinese and Filipinos. In contrast, Japan’s immigration to the United States practically ceased from 1945 to 1965, when it resumed at a much lower rate than those reported for other Asian countries.


Several distinct demographic characteristics illustrate most graphically past restrictions and the 1965 revision of the immigration laws. Earlier immigrants from China and the Philippines were predominantly single males. As a result of racial prejudice that culminated in the passage of antimiscegenation laws directed primarily against people of color in many western and southwestern states, the majority of these earlier Asian immigrants remained unmarried. The lack of family life caused unattached immigrants to depend on one another, creating an apparent great solidarity among people of the same ethnic group. Many of the earlier studies of Chinese and Filipino communities depicted themes of social isolation and loneliness, which did not apply to the Japanese community. Paul Siu (1952) portrayed the extreme social isolation of Chinese laundrymen in Chicago in his doctoral dissertation, that was published at the time only as a paper in the American Journal of Sociology, with the title ”The Sojourner.” Although Siu’s work was written under the direction of Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess, it was not included in the Chicago School sociological series published by the University of Chicago Press that focused on urban and ethnic social structure of the time allegedly because Siu argued that the Chinese immigrants did not fit the Park-Burgess assimilation model because of the ”race factor.” Thus a major piece of Asian-American research, The Chinese Laundryman: A Study in Social Isolation (Siu 1987) remained unpublished until after the author’s death in the mid-1980s.

The existence of single-gender communities of Filipinos and Chinese is clearly demonstrated in the U.S. censuses between 1860 and 1970. In 1860, the sex ratio for Chinese was 1,858 men for every 100 women. By 1890, following the peak of Chinese immigration during the previous decade, the ratio was 2,678 males for every 100 females—the highest recorded. Skewed sex ratios for the Chinese population later declined steadily as the result of legislative revisions in 1930 (46 U.S. Stat. 581) and 1931 (46 U.S. Stat. 1511) that enabled women from China to enter the United States.

A second factor that helped to balance the sex ratio in the Chinese community, particularly among the younger age cohorts, was the presence of an American-born generation. In 1900, U.S.-born persons constituted only 10 percent of the Chinese-American population. By 1970, the figure was 52 percent. Nevertheless, in the 1980 census, the sex ratio remained high for some age groups within certain Asian-American subpopulations: among Filipinos, for example, the highest sex ratio was found in those sixty-five and older.

The demographic characteristics of Japanese Americans present yet another unusual feature. Under the ”Gentlemen’s Agreement” between Japan and the United States, Japanese women were allowed to land on the West Coast to join their men though the immigration of male laborers was curtailed. The majority of the women came as picture brides (Glenn 1986, pp. 31-35) within a narrow span of time. Thus, the years following 1910 were the decade of family building for the first (issei) generation of Japanese Americans. Since almost all issei were young and their brides were chosen from a cohort of marriageable applicants of about the same age, it was not surprising that issei began their families at about the same time after marriage. The historical accident of controlled migration of brides resulted in a uniform age cohort of the second-generation Japanese Americans (nisei). The relatively homogeneous age group of the nisei generation meant that their children, the third generation (known as sansei), were also of about the same age. The fourth generation followed the same pattern. The amazingly nonoverlapping age and generational cohorts among Japanese Americans is not known to have had parallels in other population groups.

Fourth, while Asian Americans in general continue to grow in number as a result of new immigration, the size of the Japanese American population increases primarily by the addition of new generations of U.S.-born babies. It is generally believed that the offspring of Japanese women who marry Caucasians have lost their Japanese identity, even though there are no estimates of the impact of intermarriages upon the shrinkage of the Japanese-American community. An educated guess would be that about two-thirds of Japanese Americans marry non-Japanese partners. Given the fact that Japanese immigrants had lower fertility rates than women in Japan during the period prior to and shortly after World War II, and that the number of new immigrants since the war has remained small, Japanese communities have larger percentages of older people than do other ethnic minority populations, including other Asian Americans. In short, Japanese Americans will be a much smaller ethnic minority in the future. The plurality ranking for all Asian groups placed the Japanese at the top of the list in 1970; they dropped to the third place in 1980, are expected to place fourth in 1990, and to be ranked last by the year 2000.

One more demographic fact is worthy of note. Hawaii and the West Coast states continue to draw large numbers of new immigrants from Asia. Through a process known as ”chain migration,” relatives are likely to follow the immigrants soon after their arrival. This leads to sudden increases in population within the ethnic enclaves. The post-1965 pattern of population growth in many Chinatowns, for instance, is an example of the renewal and revitalization of ethnic communities— which prior to 1965 were experiencing a decline— as are the formation and expansion of Koreantowns, Filipinotowns, and Little Saigons. Moreover, the settlement of post-1965 immigrants from Asia is more dispersed than that of the earlier groups, owing to the fact that the need for professional and skilled manpower is widely distributed throughout the United States. The emergence of Thai, Malaysian, and Vietnamese communities in major metropolitan areas has added a new dimension to the ethnic composition of Asian Americans.

Two separate chains of immigration resulted from the new immigration legislation of 1965. One chain, largely found in Chinese and Filipino communities, is kin-selective in that the process of settlement follows the family ties of earlier immigrants. The other process is occupation-selective, based on skills and professional qualifications. These two processes created significantly different immigrant populations, with clearly discerned bimodal distributions of status characteristics. It is therefore common to find recent immigrants from Asia among the high-income groups as well as among the families living below the poverty level; some find their homes in the ethnic enclaves of central cities while others live in high-income suburban communities. Any attempt to describe Asian Americans by using average measures of social status characteristics, such as income, education, and occupation, can produce a distorted and misleading profile that fits no particular group, which can be misused by researchers and planners. A more useful description would be the use of standard errors to show the polarities or deviations of the immigrant group from the norm of the majority.

In short, the sociodemographic and socioeconomic characteristics of all Asian American communities since 1850 have been greatly influenced by federal immigration legislation. A clear grasp of the structure and change of Asian-American communities must begin with an understanding of the history of immigration legislation.


Asian-American research may be divided into six periods: (1) the early period before World War II, which was influenced by, and was a part of, the Chicago School of Sociology that focused on the emergence of a multiethnic urban America. (2) the World War II period, which saw a preponderance of Japanese-American studies that also centered around the University of Chicago; (3) the postwar era, with a strong emphasis on culture and personality studies related to Japanese and Japanese Americans; (4) a shift toward ”ethnic” experience as a result of the civil rights movement; and the emergence of a new academic course of Asian-American studies and finally (5) the integration of social science theories and concepts of ethnic inequalities and the changing Asian-American vista in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Early Period. The pioneer sociological studies on the assimilation of immigrants in American urban communities may be attributed to the work of Robert E. Park. Although Park had done little empirical investigation, he had supervised a large number of graduate students and had formulated what was known as the theory of race cycle, which stressed the unidirectional process of competition, accommodation, and assimilation as the basis of race relations in urban America. Park later led a group of researchers to study Chinese and Japanese communities on the Pacific Coast. The results failed to prove the race-cycle theory. In defending his views, according to Lyman (1977, p.4), Park employed the Aristotelian doctrine of ”obstacles,” which suggests that among Chinese and Japanese the assimilation progress in the hypothesized direction was only delayed.

Early published sociological research on Asian Americans included the works of Bogardus (1928, 1930), who attempted to delineate degrees of prejudice against minorities through an operational concept of ”social distance.” Other topics were chosen randomly such as ”Oriental crime” in California (Beach 1932); school achievement of Japanese-American children (Bell 1935); and anti-Asian sentiments (Sandmeyer 1939; Ichihashi 1932). A noted pioneer community study ofJapanese Americans conducted by Frank Miyamoto (1939) in Seattle in the late 1930s paved the way for the long and significant bibliography on Japanese-American studies that followed.

Perhaps the most significant and ambitious piece of work during the prewar era was the study of social isolation of Chinese immigrants, which took more than a decade to complete. The author, Paul Siu, working under a condition of extreme poverty for a decade, observed the life of Chinese laundrymen. The product of his research endeavors offers a classic text in the study of ”unmeltable” immigrants, from which the concept of ”sojourner” independently complemented the earlier work of G. Simmel (Siu 1952, 1987).

World War II and Japanese-American Studies. Large-scale systematic studies on Asian Americans began shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when the United States declared war on Japan. The U.S. government stripped Japanese Americans of their property, relocated them, and housed them in internment camps for several years. Alexander Leighton, a psychiatrist, recruited nisei social science graduates to assist in his work in the camps, monitoring the morale and loyalty of internees; this perhaps was the pioneer work in assessing their group cohesion and structure. A few of Leighton’s nisei assistants completed their doctoral studies after the war, maintaining a close and affectionate relationship with him. All had made their own contributions as social scientists and as Asian-American specialists. Leighton’s work on the internment of these civilians (both citizens and non citizens) resulted in the publication of a classic text on loyalty (Leighton 1945).

Thomas and Nishimoto (1946), Thomas (1952), and Broom and Kitsuse (1955) also carefully documented the situation and the people of Japanese-American communities. The focus of these studies was the question of loyalty on the part of Japanese-American citizens and their offspring in spite of their brilliant wartime combat duties on behalf of their adopted country in Europe. It was the American home front conditions had sparked an area of development in social science research that paralleled some of the classic work on the study of the Polish peasant (Thomas and Znanieki 1946). As a result it increased the general knowledge base on Japanese Americans, including their families and communities, and their sacrifices and contributions to America’s wartime efforts.

Culture and Personality Studies in the Postwar Era. During World War II, the U.S. government had reason and the opportunity to question the suitability of Asians as American citizens in regard to loyalty and civic responsibilities. It was also a time to test the myth that Asian immigrants could not assimilate into American society. Social scientists were intrigued by the way culture shapes the personality. Ruth Benedict’s classic work on the Japanese personality and society (Benedict 1946) opened a new vista for research. A cohort of young scholars at the University of Chicago, which included Japanese-American graduate students, became known for their pioneer work in studying Japanese behavioral patterns. It had a profound effect on a generation of interested social scientists and resulted in the publication of many classic works on culture and personality (Caudill 1952; Jacobson and Rainwater 1953; Caudill and DeVos 1956; DeVos 1955; Kitano 1961, 1962, 1964; Caudill and Scarr 1961; Babcock and Caudill 1958; Meredith 1966; and Vogel 1961). Similar studies on other Asian-American groups are conspicuously absent.

Ethnic Studies and the Civil Rights Movement. In the 1960s, the civil rights movement, sparked by the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., contributed to the passage of an unprecedented immigration-legislation reform. At the time there existed among Asian Americans on the Pacific Coast, principally in California, a collective search for identity that shared many of the goals and rhetoric of the black movement. Research into the ethnic (Asian) U.S. communities had added two dimensions. The first was the need to raise ethnic consciousness as a part of the social movement. Personal testimonials of experiences as members of an oppressed minority provided insight into the psychology of ethnic minorities. The emphasis on the cathartic, as well as the cathectic quality in much of the writings of the civil-rights era reflected the mood of the period: that there is a need for alternative theories against the early assimilation model in standard texts on racial and ethnic studies. Second, consistent with the radical theme, was the apparent influence of Marxian views on race and ethnic relations, which posited that African-American and other minorities are victims of oppression in a capitalist society.

Expectedly, the civil rights movement began a renewed interest in research on the experiences of the earliest Asian Americans. With time the titles ranged from well-documented academic publication to insightful popular readings for the lay public (Chen 1980; Daniels 1988; Choy 1979; Ichioka 1988; Miller 1969; Nee and de Bary 1973; Saxton 1971; Sung 1971; Takaki 1989; Wilson and Hosokawa 1980).

Asian-American studies was established in the 1970s as an academic discipline in a number of institutions of higher learning, particularly in California, at a time when there were only a few major publications as sources of information for undergraduates (e.g., Kitano 1961-1976; Lyman 1974; Petersen 1971). The birth of an academic specialty was marked by the conspicuous absence of available materials, particularly on Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese, and the peoples of the Indian sub continent (Min 1989). In response to this void, the Asian-American Studies Center at the University of California at Los Angeles published two collections of papers (Roots and Counterpoint) and a quarterly journal, The Amerasia. On the Atlantic Coast, a group of U.S.-born professionals published an intellectual nonacademic monthly, The Bridge, for nearly a decade. In the 1970s and 1980s, these publications were recommended as collateral readings for college students interested in Asian-American studies. Amerasia has since become more academic in the 1980s and 1990s while Bridge, for the lack of funds, quietly folded after nearly one decade. In its place, two new academic publications appeared in the 1990s: the Journal of Asian American Studies, which is a U.S. East Coast complement (at Cornell University) to Amerasia; and the Journal of Asian American Health, that serves health research readers as well as the general public. In addition, funded research on health and mental health by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services has greatly enhanced the research productivities on Asian Americans as well as cumulative bibliographies.

The New Age of Asian-American Research: Emerging Theories and Concepts. Stanley Lyman at the University of California at Berkeley, and S. Frank Miyamoto at the University of Washington, are generally acknowledged as pioneers in Asian-American research. Through his numerous papers and books, Lyman has maintained a theoretical relevance and has demonstrated an historical insight into the origin and growth of Asian-American communities, especially those of the Chinese and Japanese. As a social historian, he based his research, by and large, on archival documents (see Lyman 1970b). Miyamoto, on the other hand, belongs to a founding generation of Japanese-American researchers whose long-time association with the University of Washington and his training under Professor Herbert Blumer at the University of Chicago gave him a mix of symbolic interactionist bend and logical positivist approach to the establishment of sound theoretical propositions in the study of Japanese Americans.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a few well-trained sociologists began to emerge, many of them foreign born and foreign educated, with American postgraduate training—the ”first-generation new immigrants”—scholars who arrived at a time when America had become sensitive to diverse cultures. The new breed of Asian-American researchers are increasingly more vocal, questioning traditional sociological theories and concepts based on studies of European immigrants in the early 1920s and 1930s. There is also a reflection of the postmodern and world community perspectives that have become influential intellectual trends of the time. These new studies of Asian-American communities have added much to a field that had been underserved by the social sciences. In addition, as Asian-American studies became a new academic discipline in line with the African-American and other ethnic minority and gender studies, the need grew for more social science information. The lack of usable and more accurate estimates on many attributes of Asian Americans based on adequate sample design and culturally appropriate survey instruments employed in federal surveys has frustrated many Asian-American researchers, in spite of the special publication of information on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the 1980 and 1990 censuses. Asian-American researchers constructively point out how such statistics can be improved to the advantage of both legislators and research academicians (see Yu and Liu 1992).

Much information on Asian Americans, particularly new immigrants, still depends on small sample backyard research by individual investigators. In the post-civil rights movement decades, studies on ethnic identities and race and ethnic relations continue to flourish, adding new Asian immigrants into the sample of observations and analyses. The newly arrived Korean businessmen and professionals gave birth to fresh topics in the research literature. Publications on Korean professionals and small businesses provided opportunities to support the old ”middleman” theory that argued Asians succeded in finding business opportunities by being middleman between white and black supplier and customer relations; (see Light and Bonacich 1988) and also advanced an argument that newly emerged Asian-American ethnic business communities can best be understood in the context of a global business community (Min 1987, and 1988; Yu, E.Y. 1983, Light and Sanchaz 1987).

Newer research also includes a collection of refugee studies that involved Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotian Hmongs. Publications on the Vietnamese community centered largely on the initial movement of refugees after the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam on April 25, 1975. Liu and his associates made a survey of the first wave of refugees who were brought in directly from Vietnam to Camp Pendelton in California (Liu, Lamanna, and Murata 1979). He directed the reader’s attention to the special status of refugees vis-a-vis immigrants, and the pathway to becoming refugees from previously nonrefugee status as a result of both political and military decisions. The distinction between refugees and immigrants was later further elaborated by Haines (1989a, 1989b). Gold (1992) compared Vietnamese with Jewish refugees’ adaptive experience, and showed commonalities of refugee experience in general. Freeman (1984) on the other hand, collected life histories and reported refugees’ own accounts of flight and adjustment. Taken together, studies on Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians focused more on their cohort experience as refugees, rather than their transition to an emerging new ethnic community.

The smaller number of Cambodian and Laotian Hmong people, relative to the Vietnamese, is a major reason why they remained as a part of the underserved Asian-American population in the Asian-American literature. Much of the writings on the Hmong people were based on clinical interviews by practicing health providers and academic psychiatrists (Beiser 1987, 1988; Boehnlein 1987; Mollicca et al. 1987). There is also the reflection of a time when the concern was on wartime trauma, refugee experience, and cultural adjustment (see Chan 1994). These publications tend to leave an impression that Hmong people had the most difficult time in America, and are psychologically maladjusted.

There remained a scarcity of systematic studies, except for Agarwal’s (1991) work on Indian immigrants. Agarwal’s survey on immigrant Asian Indians in America was based on a rather small sample of professionals. Available studies on immigrant Americans from the Indian subcontinent, however, remained inadequate and woefully few.

The arrival of voluminous publications on new immigrants from Asia did not slow down studies of prior to 1965 immigrants. A cumulative bibliography began to focus on the aftermath of Japanese nisei resettlement (Ichioka 1989a; Miyamoto 1989; Warren 1989), and sensei scholars began to search for the Japanese identity of their parents’ generation (Ichioka 1989b ). A well-publicized book by Ronald Tataki (1989), Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans, contained verbatim recorded life histories.However, it did arouse renewed interest in Asian Americans and their American experience, particularly at a time of race consciousness.

While the third-generation Japanese Americans were busy finding their identities, nisei continued to search for the meaning of ”being American.” In September of 1987, on the campus at the University of California at Berkeley, a group of scholars who belonged to the original Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study (JERS) at the Berkeley campus convened, and reminisced about lost valuable information of that period (see JERS 1989). Among those who attended include Ichioka, Miyamoto, L.R and J.H. Hirabayashi, Suzuki, Spencer, Kikuchi, Takagi, and Sakoda. Later researchers learned from discussion notes that there was a diary kept by Charles Kikuchi, known as the Kikuchi Diary, but it was destroyed. A manuscript entitled American Betrayed by Professor Morton Grodzin was suppressed from being published. Furthermore, another manuscript reportedly written by Violet de Christoforo described internees’ refusal to leave camps as camps were closed.The existence of this manuscript, if true, shed additional light on similar experiences reported in Camp Pendelton as the Vietnamese camps were closed, when refugees were labeled as suffering from campetitis by the federal administrator in charge of closing all camps that housed refugees from Indochina (see Liu et al. 1979).

Clearly Asian-American research could not be separated from the general field of race and ethnic studies. In the 1980s and 1990s, researchers continued to be fascinated by Asians who had mutual ill feelings in their home countries because of neighboring dominations and the World War II experience, but appeared to be united behind a cause of advancing the status of Asian-Americans as a group. Whether there is a single identity of all Asian-Americans, or multiple subidentities of separate entities depends, of course, on issues. But the persistence of a multiple subidentities seem to be present not only among the first-generation immigrants, which is understandable, it also appears to be real among second- or third-generation ethnics. Fugita and O’Brien’s (1991) volume on Japanese Americans is a good illustration; they seemed to have suggested that a single identity of Asian Americans is but an abstract rather than a reality. Among the Asian-American professionals, perhaps this issue is more complex and deep than is commonly expected (see Espirita 1992).

There also had begun some long-awaited new social science contributions to the literature on Filipino immigrants in the 1980s that were absent in the earlier generation. These studies included Filipino-American income levels (Cabezas, Shinagawa, and Kawaguchi 1986-1987), Filipino assimilation (Pido 1986), and Filipino health practices (Montepio 1989).

As more practicing professionals took part in studying Asian immigrants, there appeared in the 1970s and 1980s a bifurcation of writings on Asian Americans: those that catered to an academic audience and those that served as ”voices” of the grassroots community (see Radhakrishnan 1996). It is understandable that, when more and more publications contained a whole spectrum of topics, the quality of writings would also vary widely. At the conceptual level, there remained in these writings a contrast between neo-Marxian and neoclassical economic approaches to status attainment, income, and employment opportunities for Asian Americans.

For example, the censuses of 1980 and 1990 confirmed the fact that U.S.-born Japanese and Chinese men came closest to parity with white men with respect to individual income. Japanese and Chinese women have significantly lower income than white women. The rest of those Asian men and women continued to have lower incomes than those of whites, Japanese, and Chinese. One explanation seemed to have suggested that Asians as a group valued education and scholastic achievement or individual effort, known as the human capital theory (Becker 1975). But within various Asian subgroups, the disturbing question is why some Asian immigrants attained higher income than others in the same ethnic group. Here both Becker’s human capital and the labor market segmentation explanations are applicable. The Lahei suggests a two tier wage system prevail (see Cabezas, Shinagawa, and Kawaguchi 1986-1987; Bonacich 1975, 1988, 1992).

Perhaps a third explanation of the differential pace of status attainment came from some writings about the Filipino immigrant-labor market structure that related to the manner in which newcomers came to join their kin-relatives. The so-called ”network recruitment” tended to form clusters in the same occupation area, resembling the earlier immigration patterns of Chinese in California (who came from four or five villages in Guangdong Province) and Japanese farm workers (who were recruited from southern prefectures of Japan).

Unlike blacks and Native Americans, Asian Americans varied significantly in terms of language proficiency, which had an enormous impact on income and the kinds of occupations in which they tended to cluster together. Barry Chiswick (1974) has demonstrated that English proficiency is a major factor in income parity. P.G. Min (1986) showed that Filipino and Korean immigrants, an even match for income, engage in quite different occupations. Koreans engage in business but Filipinos do not. Min pointed out that the language barrier forces Koreans to be self-employed, no matter how hazardous their business turns out to be. Furthermore, it was Korean immigrants’ linkage to industrial development in Korea that led to the development of some of the Korean communities in the United States. Filipino communities, on the other hand, did not develop similar enterprises to form a visible ethnic enclave in America. Instead, they depended more on ethnic professional societies and trade associations as basis of ethnic cohesion.

The same rationale was also applied in the case of ”new” Chinatown studies. The earlier descriptive studies of Chinatown either over-romanticized the exotic quality of an ethnic enclave, or highlighted the worst side of humanity. To see Chinatown as a unique economic system is perhaps a new approach that is not without controversy. Zhou (1992), herself a new immigrant scholar from China, took the conceptual framework of her major advisor A. Portes, and wrote and published her dissertation on New York’s Chinatown. She ably showed how a separate economic system had developed and embedded in urban America. Zhou’s book on Chinatown is refreshingly different from several other volumes on the same topic published between the latter part of the 1970s to the early part of the 1990s that continued to portray patterns of conflict and cleavage (Wong 1977; Kuo 1977; Kwon 1987; Kinkead 1992).

The rise of Asian-American Studies programs, either as a part of multicultural or ethnic studies, or as an independent program, certainly has been instrumental in the increasing research and number of publications that deal with Asian-American communities. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the field, the multitudes of topics to be covered, and the unusual personal experiences of writers, the uneven quality of these publications is expected and sometimes unavoidable. Among studies on new communities, on income and status attainment, and on racial and ethnic relations, there appeared to be a genuine effort to formulate theoretically applicable concepts, and to use existing theories and models, which compared to fairly good and important descriptive studies of an earlier era, both before and after World War II. A good example is the analysis of the Korean rotating credit associations in Los Angeles (Light, Kwuon, and Zhong 1990), in which the authors examined the functions of financing and savings groups based on informal trust in Korean business communities.

The most noticeable achievement of the Asian-American Studies programs in the 1970s through the 1990s is the abundant effort to compile important bibliographies, by searching for research materials that are normally scattered through scientific journals, unpublished files, doctoral and masters’ dissertations, working papers, diaries, and conference proceedings. The federal government is credited with making bibliographies on Indochinese refugees, either through the U.S. Government Printing Office, or at the University of Minnesota Southeast Asian Refugee Studies Project (see references at the end of this section). Finally, the rise of Asian-American Studies programs increased efforts to establish libraries and documentation centers in a number of universities throughout the country.

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