Factsheet:
Chinese Americans

by Ying Ying Meng

Population

  • In 1997, China (including Hong Kong) and the Philippines were the leading countries of origin after Mexico for foreign-born residents in the United States. Each contributed 1.1 million people. 1
  • In July 1998, 36.2% percent of the population in San Francisco County were Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs). 2
  • From the 1990 census to July 1997, the API population in San Francisco County has increased at the fastest rate, 24.5% (Table 1). The major increase in the API population came from migration (74.2%).3

Table 1. Race/Ethnic Population Estimates:
Components of Change for San Francisco County, April 1990 to July 1997

  Total White Black Native American API Hispanic
April 1990 723,959 338,578 76,343 2,635 205,686 100,717
July 1997 777,384 320,044 77, 257 2,749 256,174 121,160
Change since 1990 53,425 -18,534 914 114 50,488 20,443
% Change 7.4% -5.5% 1.2% 4.3% 24.5% 20.3%

Source: State of California, Department of Finance, Race/Ethnic Population Estimates: Components of Change for California Counties, April 1990 to July 1997. Sacramento, Calif., June 1999.

  • According to the 1990 census data, Asians and Pacific Islanders composed 29% of San Francisco City population. Among them, 18% were Chinese (Figure 1). 4

Figure 1

  • The total Chinese population in the United States was 1,645,472, or 22.6% of the API population in 1990. 5
  • San Francisco County had 127,140 Chinese, or 18% of the California Chinese population, and 7.7% of the U.S. Chinese population in 1990. 6
  • Between 1980 and 1990, the Chinese population grew by 116.3% in California. 7
  • In the San Francisco Bay Area, more than half of the Chinese were new immigrants. The Bay Area has the largest Chinese population center in the United States. 8
  • Among those speaking API languages at home in San Francisco City, 34.3% of adults (18 to 64 years) and 59% elderly (65 years and above) did not speak English well or not at all. 9

Economic Status

  • Among legal permanent residents, 2.8% of Chinese under 65 and 36.2% of Chinese over 65 received public assistance in 1990. 10
  • Based on 1990 census, the Chinese in California had a family median income of $43,282, which was higher than that of whites. However, there was also a higher percentage of Chinese families living below the poverty line (10% vs. 6.2%).11

  • The San Francisco Bay Area is estimated to have 1,500 Chinese restaurants employing 15,000 people who are mainly new immigrants from China and Hong Kong. Working hours are often twelve hours a day, six to seven days a week. The owner and chef often work fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. Gross salary for full-time restaurant workers is $1,500–$3,000 per month, including tips. 12
  • San Francisco is estimated to have 350 Chinese garment factories employing 15,000 workers of whom 100 are located in Chinatown. Average wage is $150–$200 per week. 13
  • In San Francisco Chinatown 74% of housing was built before 1950 and used lead paint. Chinatown is one of most densely populated neighborhoods in the United States with 228 persons per acre, 7.2 times higher than the city average. 14

Education

  • Education has a bipolar distribution among Chinese Americans in the United States. While the number of Chinese with bachelor’s degrees (37.5%) was higher than whites (25.4%), the number of those who were illiterate or had 0–4 years of education (10.3%) was four times greater than whites (2.6%) in 1990. 15
  • During the 1999–2000 school year in the San Francisco Unified School District, about a third of the student population was Chinese (29.3%), followed by Latino (21.5%), African American (15.6%), white (11.7%), other nonwhite (12.3%), Filipino (6.9%), Korean (1.0%), Japanese (1.0%), and Native American (0.7%).16
  • During the 1997–98 school year, 41.4% of students enrolled in the San Francisco Unified School District were Asians excluding Filipinos; however, only 19.9% of the teachers are Asians. 17
  • During the 1997–98 school year, the four-year school dropout rate among Asian students, excluding Filipinos, in the San Francisco Unified School District was 7.2%. This was higher than the statewide four-year dropout rate of Asian students (6.3%), but lower than the overall rate (11.7%).18
  • In 1996, the top languages spoken among San Francisco’s Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students were Spanish (35.35%) and Cantonese (34.99%). The percentage of LEP students enrolled in elementary school for 1996 was 17.4%. The rate for middle school students was approximately 25.5%, and the rate for high school students was 23%.19
  • Chinese juveniles referred to detention in San Francisco County in 1996 were 4.6% of the total. 20

Health

  • A study of insurance rates among California’s APIs during 1996–97 indicated that Chinese had low rates of job-based coverage (58% vs. 69% for non-Latino whites), high uninsured rates (30% vs. 15% for non-Latino whites), and low Medi-Cal coverage (1% vs. 7% for non-Latino whites). 21
  • The leading causes of death of APIs and Chinese were different from those of the total population, especially in terms of homicide and suicide in the total of seven selected reporting states (Table 2).

Table 2. Five Leading Causes of Death by Rank in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington, 1992

Cause of Death

Age Range 25–44 years

All Races

White

All APIs

Chinese

HIV infection

1st

1st

5th

4th

Accidents

2nd

2nd

2nd

2nd

Cancers

3 rd

3rd

1st

1st

Heart Disease

4th

4th

3 rd

5th

Homicide & legal intervention

5th

 

5th

 

Suicide

 

5th

4th

3rd

Source: D. L. Hoyert, H. C. Kung, "Asian or Pacific Islander Mortality, Selected States, 1992," Monthly Vital Statistics Report, 46(1). Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics, 1997.

  • Nearly 70% of respondents to the NICOS Chinese Community Health Study identified gambling as the greatest problem plaguing the San Francisco Chinese community. 22
  • In an analysis conducted for the Committee on the Health and Adjustment of Immigrant Children and Families, the percentage of foreign-born Chinese mothers with low-birth-weight infants was lower (3.8%) than that of U.S.-born Chinese mothers (4.8%).23
  • In a study conducted by the Vietnamese Community Health Promotion Project, 45% of Chinese and 51% of Vietnamese women had never received a pap smear; 47% of Vietnamese women had never had a breast exam. 24
  • Based on average annual age-adjusted cancer incidence rates in California, between 1988 and 1992 Chinese men in San Francisco contracted liver cancer 8.6 times more frequently than whites (30.2 vs. 3.5 per 100,000). 25
  • Based on the 1992–94 aggregated California State Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (BRFS), 13% of APIs were at risk for hypertension; Chinese had a 15.7% prevalence rate. 26
  • Hypercholesterolemia rates were higher for Chinese (41% for males, 38% for females) than for other California adults in 1990 (16% for males, 18% for females). 27
  • Infant death rates were 3.9 per 1,000 for Chinese as compared with 7.2 per 1,000 for whites; 87.9% of Chinese women receive prenatal care. 28
  • In 1995, immigrants accounted for 7,930, or 35%, of total U.S. tuberculosis cases. Two-thirds of immigrants with tuberculosis were from seven countries: Mexico (22%), the Philippines (13%), Vietnam (12%), China (5%), Haiti (5%), India (5%), and Korea (4%).29
  • In a 1990 study of the San Francisco Bay Area, 30% of Chinese women reported experiencing domestic violence. 30
  • Chinese had the lowest rates of teen pregnancy in California, 0.3% based on a 1994 study. 31

Endnotes

  1. S. M. Lee, "Asian Americans: Diverse and Growing," Population Bulletin 53(2). Washington, D.C.: Population Reference Bureau, June 1998.
  2. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Counties Ranked by Asian and Pacific Islander Population in 1998. http://www.census.gov/population/estimates/county/rank/cornktb4.txt, September 15, 1999.
  3. State of California, Department of Finance, Race/Ethnic Population Estimates: Components of Change for California Counties, April 1990 to July 1997. Sacramento, Calif., June 1999.
  4. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census of Population and Housing, 1990, Summary Tape File Three on CD-ROM [machine-readable data files], 1992.
  5. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1992, 112th edition. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1992.
  6. Asian/Pacific Islander Data Consortium, Our Ten Years of Growth: A Demographic Analysis on Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. San Francisco: Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, 1992.
  7. Ibid.
  8. B. Wong, Ethnicity and Entrepreneurship: The New Chinese Immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area. Needham Heights, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon, 1998
  9. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census of Population and Housing, 1990.
  10. Asian and Pacific Islander Center for Census Information and Services, Percentage of Legal Permanent Residents Receiving Public Assistance Income by Age Group. San Francisco: Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, 1994.
  11. U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990 CP-2-6, Social and Economic Characteristics for California. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, September 1993.
  12. B. Wong, Ethnicity and Entrepreneurship.
  13. Ibid.
  14. T. Ow-Wing, Race, Poverty, and the Environment Newsletter, spring 1992.
  15. U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990 CP-2-6, Social and Economic Characteristics for California.
  16. San Francisco Unified School District. SFUSD School Profiles 1999–2000 (fall 1999). URL: http://orb.sfusd.edu/profile/pf99/pf99-100.html. SFUSD; Revised 02/23/00.
  17. Education Data Partnership, California Public School Profiles, revised January 3, 2000. URL: http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us.
  18. Ibid.
  19. San Francisco Unified School District, SFUSD Profile 1996–97: Elementary, Middle Schools, High Schools. [www Document]. URL: http://www.orb.sfusd.k12.ca.us/profile/prfl-108.html.
  20. San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department, Juvenile Probation 1996, Annual Report. City and County of San Francisco, 1996.
  21. R. Levan. M. Kagawa-Singer, and R. Wyn, Declining Medi-Cal Coverage Leads to Increasing Uninsured Rate among California’s Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, April 1999.
  22. NICOS Chinese Community Health Coalition, Chinese Community Health Study. San Francisco, 1997.
  23. N. S. Lindale, R. S. Oropesa, and B. Gorman, "Immigration and Infant health: Birth Outcomes of Immigrant and Native Women," in From Generation to Generation: The Health and Well-being of Children in Immigrant Families, D. Hernandez, and E. Charney, eds. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1998.
  24. C. N. H. Jenkins, M. Kagawa-Singer, "Cancer," in Confronting Critical Health Issues of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, N. W. S. Zane, D. T. Takeuchi, and K. N. J. Young, eds. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1994.
  25. A. Chen, Y. Y. Meng, P. Kunwar et al. The Health Status of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in California. The California Endowment and California HealthCare Foundation, April 1997.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Ibid.
  28. S. Dumbault, J. A. McCullough, and J. W. Sutocky, Analysis of Health Indicators for California Minority Populations. Minority Health Information Project, February 1994.
  29. N. J. Binkin, P. L. Zuber, C. D. Wells, M. A. Tipple, and K. G. Castro, "Overseas Screening for Tuberculosis in Immigrants and Refugees to the United States: Current Status," Clinical Infectious Diseases, 23 Dec., 1996, 23(6): 1226–32. Review.
  30. National Council for Research on Women, Immigration: Women and Girls Where Do They Land? Who We Welcome and Why, 1995, 1(3):12–13.
  31. Dumbault, McCullough, and Sutocky, Analysis of Health Indicators for California Minority Populations.

Back