Mayor Michael Guingona of Daly City, Calif., gets a little taste of what life was like in his parents' native country - the Philippines - by walking down the streets of his neighborhood in the San Francisco suburb.
Outside of Honolulu, Daly City is the largest city in the United States with a majority Asian population, says a Census Bureau report released Monday.
California, New York and Hawaii are home to over half of the nation's Asian population, though there also were pockets of growth during the past decade in Minnesota, Indiana and the south.
Asian American researchers said the new analysis of data from the 2000 decennial headcount shows the Asian community was the fastest growing racial minority in the United States in the 1990s and means Asians are increasing their profile in towns across America.
"You can make interesting stories in almost any local area out of the dramatic increase in the number of Asian Americans -- places where there were hardly any Asian Americans at one time," said Professor Don Nakanishi, head of the Asian American
Studies Center at the University of California at Los Angeles.
"They have changed clearly the character of race relations, not only locally but nationally. We really do have to talk about multiracial communities now in a way we didn't quite have to do in years past except in certain places."
Even Guingona, a Filipino born in San Francisco, is a little surprised about how things have grown.
"One guy would come over from the same town (overseas), he would assess the place, and before you know it a lot of people from the same town would stay in one house here for a short time and then move on," he said.
Nearly 54 percent of Daly City residents selected Asian as their race on their census form.
Among cities with more than 100,000 residents, Honolulu had the largest share of residents who were Asian, nearly 68 percent, according to the 2000 census report that summarized previously released data. After Daly City, the rest of the top 10 were in
Still, data indicate that the Asian population - typically with backgrounds from smaller Southeast Asian countries - surged outside of the traditional immigrant gateways, said Karen Narasaki, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium in Washington.
While the West also had the highest proportion (9.3 percent) of Asians in its total population, the biggest growth occurred in the South, said Claudette Bennett, chief of the bureau's racial statistics branch.
All areas of the country saw double-digit percentage changes in their Asian populations, but the southern region saw growth of 76 percent to 107 percent.
The lower number included just those who categorized themselves as Asian only and the higher number those who were Asian and some other race.
Asians nearly doubled in size during the 1990s in Indiana, and more than doubled in Minnesota. Thousands of Hmong, an ethnic group from the highlands of Laos that was caught up in the Vietnam War, have settled in Minnesota in recent years.
Data from 1990 is not directly comparable, however, because of a new option on 2000 census forms that allowed people to identify themselves as being members of more than one race.
Southeast Asian groups settled outside longtime immigrant destinations in part because of government's refugee resettlement programs that assessed a quota per zip code, Narasaki said.
Chinese is the largest Asian subgroup in the country, numbering 2.7 million, followed by Filipino (2.4 million), and Asian Indian (1.9 million).
While the high growth and population concentration patterns highlighted by the 2000 Census figures continue trends that have been notable since the 1970s, Nakanishi said the spread into the South and other regions has interesting political implications.
Nakanishi, whose center has tracked Asian Americans running for and elected to public office since 1980, said the number of people of Asian ancestry holding elected office had exploded. In 2001, about 2000 Asian Americans held elected office in 33 states, he said.
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