Sunday, June 24, 2012

America has one of the biggest Pacific Islander communities in the world. Why?

Last week, we blogged about how the U.S. has one of the largest Pacific Islander communities in the world. It's fair to ask this question as a follow up:


A variety of factors play a role, such as a desire for economic opportunity, religion, language, and immigration policy. But in my view, here are the two biggest reasons why America has the second largest Pacific Islander community in the world.

1.) A strong and growing base of Pacific Islanders who are indigenous to land that is now part of the U.S.

The average Pacific Islander American did not "come to" the United States; the United States came to them.  The majority of Pacific Islanders who live in the 50 states are descended from the original people of Pacific Islands that are now part of the United States: Native Hawaiians (Hawaii), Samoans (American Samoa), Chamorros/Guamanians (Guam), and Mariana Islanders (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands).  According to data from the 2010 Census, these four groups make up as much as 70 percent of America's Pacific Islander American community. These indigenous communities are living and growing parts of our nation.

2.) Special relationships with Pacific Island nations that allow for easy immigration into the U.S.

In addition to those Americans who are indigenous to the U.S. Pacific Islands, many Micronesian Americans have been able to immigrate to the 50 states without the restrictions that limit most non-citizens, due to the special relationship between the U.S. and the former United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, which was administered by the United States. (That area now consists of one U.S. Commonwealth -- The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands -- and three countries that are in free association with the United States: The Federated States of Micronesia, The Republic of The Marshall Islands, and The Republic of Palau.)

When you combine the populations of Pacific Islanders who are indigenous to the U.S. Pacific Islands with those who are indigenous to the Freely Associated States, you're looking as much as three-quarters of the Pacific Islander population residing in the 50 states.

To sum it up: What are two of the biggest reasons why America has the second biggest Pacific Islander population?  1.) Most Pacific Islander Americans are indigenous to land that is now part of the United States, or 2.) land that is now in free association with the U.S.


Want to see the breakdown of America's Pacific Islander population?  Click here, and scroll over to page 14: LINK

Note: While American Samoa is part of the United States, Samoa consists of two political bodies: the Independent State of Samoa (formerly Western Samoa), and the unincorporated territory of American Samoa. 

Here's a Wiki on the term "Free Association"

Saturday, June 16, 2012

World's Largest Pacific Islander Communities

Which of the following countries has the largest Pacific Islander population?

A.) Samoa
B.) Tonga
C.) Fiji
D.) The United States of America

You might think it'd be one of these Pacific Island nations, but the answer is D.) USA.

In fact, the United States has a bigger Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander community than all of those other nations combined. Alongside Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, the U.S.A. has one of the largest Pacific Islander populations in the world.


Want to see the sources and the math for yourself? I've written out the math below, and hyperlinked to our sources: 

  • Samoa has a population of 183,000, of which 99 percent are Samoan or other Pacific Islander (181,170)
  • Tonga has a population of 105,000, of which 98 percent are Tongan (102,900)
  • Fiji has a population of 851,000, of which 57 percent are Fijian (485,070)

181,170 + 102,900 + 485,070 = 769,140

By comparison, the US counts over 1,200,000 Pacific Islanders in the 50 states

What about Papua New Guinea and New Zealand?

  • Papua New Guinea is home to 6.8 million people, of which 99 percent are Papua New Guinean (6.73 million). Papua New Guinea is the only place in the world I'm aware of that has a larger Pacific Islander population than the US.
  • New Zealand has a population of 4.4 million residents, of which 15 percent are Maori and 7 percent are other Pacific Islanders (968,000). Their Pacific Islander population is comparable, though clearly smaller, than the US.
(Did we miss a country with a bigger PI population than the US?  If you think so, let us know!)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

U.S. Census blogs about Pacific Islander Americans

Aloha!  We wanted to share a blog post that relates closely to our efforts to raise awareness about America's growing Pacific Islander community.

Loyal readers have seen our previous posts about the U.S. Census Bureau's recent paper on Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander data from the 2010 Census.  Yesterday, the Census blogged about that study.  I encourage you to read their post, which is available here: LINK  They don't get into educational attainment stats, but there's valuable information about the changing demographics within the Pacific Islander American community.

For 20-plus years worth of Census data on Pacific Islander underrepresentation in higher education, just visit this post we wrote earlier: LINK


Sunday, June 03, 2012

Pacific Islander Americans: Population Size

Thanks to the U.S. Census Bureau's recent report on Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, we have a new population count for Pacific Islanders in the 50 States: 1,225,195.  This is a 40 percent increase from 2000, when our population was still under one million. (These figures do not include Pacific Islanders residing in the U.S. Pacific Territories, such as American Samoa or Guam.)  By comparison, the overall rate of population growth in the U.S. was just under ten percent.

At 1.2 million, Pacific Islanders remain the smallest of the five major racial groups.  Still, when you compare our population size in other ways, it's clear that even in pure numbers, we're an important part of America that shouldn't be ignored.  For example:

  • Comparing Pacific Islander Americans to States: We'd be bigger than seven states: Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, and Vermont.  We're also nearly twice the size of the District of Columbia's resident population. (Here's Wikipedia's list of states.)
  • Comparing Pacific Islander Americans to Branches of the Military: The Pacific Islander community is significantly larger than any single branch of the U.S. military (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard).  Our population is about 15 percent smaller than the total number of active duty military in each branch combined (1.2 million Pacific Islanders in the 50 states vs. 1.4 million active duty, according to Wikipedia's figures on the U.S. Armed Forces). 
  • Comparing Pacific Islander Americans to known professions: According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Pacific Islanders in the U.S. is significantly larger than the number of police officers and detectives (1.2 million vs. 794,300), physicians and surgeons (1.2 million vs. 610,000), or professional firefighters (1.2 million vs. 310,400).

This isn't to say that the issues facing Pacific Islanders are any more or less important than the needs of any of the groups mentioned here.  The point is that we shouldn't discount Pacific Islander Americans on account of our population size alone -- because by that logic, we'd have to ignore other critical parts of our community that make us who we are as a nation.