Asians leapfrog Hispanic immigration to US: study

Asians recently passed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants to the United States, according to a survey Tuesday predicting a demographic trend bringing powerful economic, social and political changes.

The survey by the Pew Research Center found the ranking switch of the two largest groups of newcomers to the United States started in 2009.

And it determined that the growing Asian population in the United States not only is large, but it is thriving.

"Asian Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States," the study concluded.

The Pew center said the change in immigration figures is largely due to declining immigration from Mexico -- the source of more US immigrants than any other country -- amid weakness in the US job market and a crackdown on illegal immigration.

At the same time, the number of Asians arrivals has remained steady or increased slightly.

The reversal is a reminder of how the recession and bumpy recovery have altered who lives in America, and augur a possible boost, in the long term, for Democrats, who have a stronger hold on immigrant voters.

In the short term, it could further sour some Americans' disdainful view of immigrants, who sometimes are seen as taking jobs or draining social services, particular in dire economic times.

The study found that Asians are three times more likely to be admitted on work visas, and 61 percent of adult Asian immigrants (defined as 25 years old or older) in recent years have had at least a bachelor's degree -- double the share of other arrivals, making them "the most highly educated cohort of immigrants in US history."

Pew also estimates that 13 to 15 percent of Asian immigrants are undocumented, versus 45 percent of Hispanic immigrants.

A survey of attitudes also found striking differences between Asians and the broader US society.

Asian respondents said they "are more satisfied" than the general public with their lives overall, their personal finances, and the direction of the country.

They expressed stronger family values than the average American, saying a successful marriage and being a good parent were key priorities.

Also 69 percent buy in to the notion that people can get ahead if they are simply willing to work hard, a view shared by a somewhat smaller share of the American public as a whole (58 percent).

Asians' religious identities were found to be varied (mostly Catholic, Hindu, Protestant, Buddhist, Muslim and Sikh) but fewer Asian American say religion is very important to their lives than the US general public.

They are less likely to identify as Republicans. Half are Democrats, while 28 percent identify with or lean toward the Republicans.

Asians also appear to be less inclined to view discrimination against their group as a major problem, compared to the nation's two largest minority groups, Hispanics and blacks.

For the most part, "today's Asian Americans do not feel the sting of racial discrimination" that was experienced by their predecessors who came in the 19th and 20th centuries, said Pew.

Overall, Hispanics still far outnumber Asians in America. In fact, there are already more Hispanics than the 41 million Asians Pew predicts will live in the United States by 2050, if the current trend continues.

Currently there are 18.2 million Asians in the United States or 5.8 percent of population, up from one percent in 1965, mostly from China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan.

This compares to 52 million Hispanics or 16.7 percent of the population.

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