Highlights from: A Community of Contrasts Asian Americans in the United States: 2011

Published by Asian American Center for Advancing Justice
Primary Researcher & Co-Author: Asian Pacific American Legal Center
Co-Author: Asian American Justice Center

Overall Summary: Korean Americans are the fifth largest Asian American ethnic group. Approximately 65% are foreign-born, and 29% of the foreign-born population entered between 2000 and 2010. The majority of legal permanent residents born in South Korea (52%) entered under employment-based preferences, while 48% entered as the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or under family-sponsored preferences. Approximately 71% of Korean Americans speak a language other than English at home, 41% are limited-English proficient, and 31% live in linguistically isolated households. Over one in five Korean Americans are without health insurance.


  • Korean Americans are fifth largest Asian-American ethnic groups after Chinese, Filipino, Indian, and Vietnamese.
  • The population growth of Korean-Americans is 39%. The fast growing group Bangladeshi recorded 157%. Pakistani and Sri Lanken followed with 100% and 85%. Chinese and Japanese showed 39% and 14%.
  • Percent of population that is mixed race: Korean-Americans ranked 6th with 14%. Japanese were the first with 35%, Indonesian and Thai were also the top group with 26% and 23%.
  • Percent of population who are foreign-born among Korean Americans is 65%. This rate is higher than other major groups such as Chinese (61%), Filipino (53%) and Japanese (28%).    

Civic Engagement

  • About half (54%) of  foreign born Korean-Americans have naturalized.
  •  There are 240,000 legal permanent residents and 140,000 are able to naturalize.
  • Percent of population who are foreign-born among Korean-Americans is 65%. This rate is higher than other major groups such as Chinese (61%), Filipino (53%) and Japanese (28%).


  • 52% of South Korean-born persons obtaining Legal Permanent Resident status in 2010 entered under employment based preferences.
  • The undocumented population of Korean-Americans dropped from approximately 240,000 in 2008 to 170,000 in 2010.


  • The median age of Korean Americans is 33, making them younger than the overall age of U.S. population (37) and non-Hispanic Whites (41). Over one-quarter of Korean Americans are children under the age of 18.


  • Approximately 71% of Korean Americans speak a language other than English at home. This is lower than other Asian American groups such as Bangladeshi (92%), Vietnamese (84%) and Chinese (77%).
  • Approximately 41% of Korean-Americans are limited-English proficient (LEP) and experience some difficulty communicating in English. This rate is lower than Vietnamese (51%), but higher than Japanese (18%).
  • 31% of Korean-Americans are linguistically isolated; they are the 2nd largest group after Vietnamese (35%).


  • 92% of Korean Americans acquired high school diploma and 52% received a Bachelor’s degree (6th). Taiwanese showed the highest rate which had 95% high school degree and 73% college degree. Indonesians and Japanese followed after.

Income & Poverty

  • Korean-Americans’ house income is lower than the average total income ($27,100). Korean-Americans earned $26,118, which is lower than the average of other major Asian groups (Taiwanese, Japanese, Chinese).
  • Approximately one fifth of Korean-American seniors (age 64+) live in poverty, which is the highest rate among Asian-American groups.
  • Roughly 2% of Korean-American households access cash public assistance. This is significantly lower than other groups such as Hmong (13%), Cambodians (8%).


  • Korean-Americans are less likely to be unemployed. Stats indicate that the unemployment rate of Korean-Americans is 6%, lower than the average rate of 8%. Hmong and Cambodians showed the highest unemployment rate with 11% and 8%.


  • Less than half of Korean-Americans own their homes. This rate is lower than other major groups such as Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Vietnamese.


  • Korean Americans are twice as likely as non-Hispanic Whites to contract hepatitis.
  • More than one fifth of Korean-Americans are uninsured, they are 3rd largest group that do not have the health insurance.


You can access the full report here.

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