Asians in Iowa

According to a 2017 report from State Data Center of Iowa and the Iowa Department of Human Rights Office of Asian Pacific Islander Affairs, 73,564 residents in Iowa identified as Asians in 2015 and 3,209 identified as Native Hawai’ians and Pacific Islanders, constituting 2.4% and 0.1% respectively of the state’s total population of 3.1 million in 2015. This represents a 100.8% increase – in five years – over the 2000 estimate of 36,635 Asian residents and a 218% increase over the 2000 estimate of 1,009 Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

In addition, because “Arab” is not listed as a race in the U.S. Census, many Iowa residents from West Asia (or what is commonly known as the Middle East) face hurdles with their identification – White or Asian? – likely skewing the numbers of Monsoon’s targeted API populations. The 2000 U.S. Census reported that 4,365 people of Arab descent live in Iowa, including 1,200 in Cedar Rapids, 900 in Des Moines, 450 in Iowa City, 320 in Ames and 315 in the Quad Cities. The largest segments of the population were Lebanese (2.057), Syrian (590) and Egyptian (319), further skewing the overall numbers when Arabs from North Africa identify themselves differently from Arabs from West Asia. Meanwhile, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, 12,608 people from Iraq and 1,693 from Syria were resettled in the United States in 2015, when the country began to accept significantly more Syrian refugees than ever before for resettlement. Interestingly, the broader Syrian immigrant community has had a U.S. presence since the late 19th century.

While the United States has resettled more refugees than any other country – about 3 million since 1980 – in fiscal 2017, an executive order was used to reduce the number of refugee admissions set by the previous administration. And while the proportion of Asians born outside the United States was 35.8% of Iowa’s foreign-born population, the increase in the Asian population can also be attributed to births. The API birth rate per 1,000 Iowans is 16.9 live births compared with the state birth rate of 12.6. These numbers do not include the presence of a shifting population of international students and their families from Asia. Moreover, many women from Asia who have been trafficked for sex or labor in the United States live “invisibly” in Iowa or temporarily before moving out of the state similar to other undocumented immigrants in the country.

In 1975, Iowa was the first state to welcome thousands of Vietnamese, Tai-dam, Lao, Khmer (Cambodian) and Hmong refugees fleeing the Vietnam War to settle in the United States. Sponsored by numerous Iowa families, churches and communities, they were settled across the state in towns large and small. In the past decade, Iowa has welcomed large numbers of Asian refugees of various nationalities and ethnicities: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Nepal and Syria. Further API migration to Iowa both from other states as well as overseas continues as people are drawn to a lower cost of living, significant educational and work opportunities, and reunification with family members. API women entering the United States as fiancées of Iowa residents continue the historical trend of them arriving as wives of military personnel, but their spouses-to-be are more likely civilians rather than servicemen. Many of these relationships, especially between American citizens and Filipino and Chinese women, are the result of Internet connections. Furthermore, the proportions of API youths born in the United States as well multiracial youths of partial API descent are also steadily increasing, and these youths have their own unique needs that differ greatly from those of earlier generations.

Other statistics:

Top 5 Counties of Residence in 2015:
Polk: 20,095 (27.3% of all Asians in Iowa)
Johnson: 9,174 (12.5%)
Story: 7,849 (10.2%)
Linn: 5,187 (7.1%)
Scott: 4,626 (6.3%)

Top 5 Counties of Residence in 2015:
Black Hawk: 327 (10.2% of all Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in Iowa)
Polk: 319 (9.9%)
Dubuque: 310 (9.7%)
Buena Vista: 253 (7.9%)
Linn: 241 (7.5%)

Top 5 Cities of Residence in 2015:
Des Moines: 16.9% of all Asians in Iowa
Ames: 9.7%
Iowa City: 8.8%
Cedar Rapids: 5.3%
West Des Moines: 5.1%

Top 5 Cities of Residence in 2015:
Dubuque: 13.4% of all Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in Iowa
Waterloo: 9.8%
Des Moines: 7.4%
Cedar Rapids: 7.3%
West Des Moines: 5.1%

The estimated number of foreign-born residents in Iowa in 2015:
China: 12, 214
India: 9,566
Vietnam: 5,607
Korea: 4.911
Philippines: 3,709

The number of Iowa Asian residents who speak Asian languages in 2015:
Chinese: 14,037
Vietnamese: 8,408
Lao: 4,338
Korean: 2,087
Tagalog (official language of the Philippines): 2,683

Median household income in 2015:
Asians: $51,202
Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders: $47,488
Iowans: $54,736

Poverty rate in 2015:
Asians: 20.7%
Iowans: 12.2%

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