The findings are part of Pew's broad portrait of Asian-Americans, immigrants or U.S.-born children of immigrants who come mostly from China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Korea and Japan. Now tied with Hispanics as the fastest-growing U.S. group, the nation's 15.1 million Asian-Americans are slowly becoming visible as founders of startups in Silicon Valley, owners of ethnic eateries, grocery stores and other small businesses in cities across the U.S., as well as candidates for political office and a key bloc of voters in states such as California, Nevada and Virginia, according to experts.
Projected to make up 1 in 10 residents by midcentury, Asian-Americans as a whole tend to be more satisfied than the general public with their lives and the direction of the country. They lean Democratic, prefer a big government that provides more services and place more value on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success.
The Pew study also revealed wide variations among Asian subgroups in poverty, employment and education, which sometimes belied their typecast as a "model minority." For instance:
—Poverty: As a whole, Asian-Americans had a poverty rate in 2010 of 11.9 percent, lower than the 12.8 percent for the general U.S. population. By country of origin, however, Koreans, Vietnamese and Chinese were more likely than the average American to live in poverty, at rates of 14 percent or more.
—Education: The share of Asian-Americans who hold at least a bachelor's degree surpasses the national average, 49 percent to 28 percent. Vietnamese, however, fell below the national average at 26 percent. People from India were most likely to have a college degree, at 70 percent.
—Unemployment: Asian-Americans ages 25 and older were somewhat less likely to be unemployed than the national average for the first quarter of 2012 — 6 percent compared to 7.4 percent for all U.S. workers. But in long-term unemployment, Asian-Americans fared much worse, with median duration of unemployment at 28 weeks, second only to African-Americans at 31 weeks. The national average was 22 weeks.
—Illegal immigration: While immigrants from Asia often obtain visas and arrive legally, many also sneak across the U.S. border or become undocumented residents after overstaying their visas. Up to 15 percent of Asian immigrants in the U.S. are here illegally, compared to 45 percent of Hispanic immigrants.
The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, a coalition of 30 Asian-American national groups, called the Pew study an "important conversation starter." But the group expressed concern that the report focused too much on "one-dimensional narratives of exceptionalism" about Asian-Americans at the expense of individual subgroups including Cambodians and Bangladeshis, who suffer low rates of educational attainment. Millions of Asian-Americans also are uninsured, and poverty has increased significantly in their communities in recent years, the group said.
"The Pew study could lead some to draw conclusions that reflect inaccurate stereotypes about Asian-Americans being a community with high levels of achievement and few challenges," said Deepa Iyer, who chairs the national council. "The community is not monolithic."
The Pew survey is based on an analysis of census data as well as interviews with 3,511 Asian adults living in the U.S., conducted by cell phone or landline from Jan. 3 to March 27. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points for all respondents, higher for subgroups.
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