Survey reveals rise of Filipino Americans

KD Suarez
'The Rise of Asian Americans' report, released by the Pew Research Center, highlights 'population trends, education, income and values' of Asian Americans

Distribution of Filipino Americans in the United States' 48 contiguous states. Image courtesy of the Pew Research Center, data from the US Census Bureau.

MANILA, Philippines – Relatively high-income earners. Well educated. Almost evenly split between Democratic and Republican supporters. Least trusting of other people.

These are just some of the characteristics of the Filipino American population according to a recent survey of Asian Americans, released on Tuesday, June 19.

“The Rise of Asian Americans” report, released by the Pew Research Center, highlighted “population trends, education, income and values” of the Asian American demographic.

From being one of the least educated, poorest, and least welcome ethnic groups several decades back, Asian Americans are now the highest income, best-educated and fastest growing racial group in the United States, the report highlighted.

Now numbering more than 18 million, Asian Americans make up 5.8% of the total population of the US, with Chinese, Filipinos, Indians, Vietnamese, Koreans, and Japanese forming the bulk of this group, US census data showed.

Graphic courtesy of the Pew Research Center.

Graphic courtesy of the Pew Research Center.

Asian Americans have also overtaken Hispanics as the largest group of recent immigrants to the US, comprising 36% of new immigrants in 2010.

The Pew study found out Asian Americans are “more satisfied than the general public with their lives, finances, and the direction of the country, and they place a greater value on marriage, parenthood, hard work, and career success.”

The Filipino American demographic

Filipinos comprise the second largest group of Asian Americans, numbering more than 3.4 million individuals, residing mostly in the West Coast of the continental US. Of these, around 2.5 million are adults 18 years old and above.

Table courtesy of the Pew Research Center.

They are among the more well-off among Asian Americans (and the entire US population in general), with a median annual family income of $75,000 (2nd highest, next to Indian Americans), despite having a comparatively low median personal income of $43,000. Poverty incidence among Fil-Ams, meanwhile, is low (6%) compared to other Asian groups (12%) and the US national average (13%).

Graphic courtesy of the Pew Research Center.Graphic courtesy of the Pew Research Center.

The report also showed that more than 6 in 10 Fil-Ams (62%) own a home, and are more likely living in the West Coast than the East Coast.

In terms of educational attainment, 47% of Filipino Americans 25 years old and above have at least a Bachelor’s degree, slightly lower than the Asian American average (49%) but higher than the national percentage (28%).

The survey, conducted in the first quarter of the year, delved into topics ranging from standard of living, citizenship/community, language, and even marriage.

  • Filipino Americans, compared to other Asian American groups, are least likely to say their current standard of living is much better (38%) or somewhat better (25%) compared to their parents’ at a comparable age (2nd lowest).
  • They are more likely to refer to themselves as “Filipino American” (69%) than as “Asian”/”Asian American” (10%) or “American” (19%), but are as likely to say they are a “typical” American as they would say they are “very different” from the typical US resident.
  • Only 38% of Filipino Americans say it’s important to maintain ties to their native language; 66%, meanwhile, say they can converse in English “very well.”

Family ties, social trust

The survey also touched on why Asian Americans moved to the US, and how they are maintaining ties to their country of origin.

For a majority of Filipinos surveyed, family is the main reason for their move to the US (43%), followed by economic reason (34%); education (10%); and conflict/political reasons (1%).

Around 6 in 10 say they still have close family ties back in the Philippines, and 67% of them sent remittances in the past 12 months. Overall, 52% of Filipino Americans have sent remittances in the past year.

The study noted that Filipino Americans stand out among US Asian groups for their “low level of social trust.” Around 73% of Fil-Ams say you can’t be too careful in dealing with people. On the other hand, only 23% say most people can be trusted.

Graphic courtesy of the Pew Research Center.

Despite this, the Pew survey said Filipino Americans tend to be more positive about their group’s relations with whites, other US Asian groups, Hispanics, and blacks, compared to other Asian American groups surveyed.

This can be seen in intermarriage rates: Filipino Americans have the second highest number of intermarriages among the groups surveyed, with 48% of newlyweds between 2008-2010 married to non-Asians, and 5% to other Asians.

Graphic courtesy of the Pew Research Center.Graphic courtesy of the Pew Research Center.

Regarding discrimination, only 8% of Filipino Americans say it is a “major problem;” 46% say it is a minor problem, while 45% it is not a problem at all.

Filipino Americans, the report said, also have a more positive view of how Filipino parents raise their children, with 64% saying those who impart their Filipino heritage put “the right amount of pressure” on kids to do well in school. Only 22% say Filipino American parents pressure their children, while 13% say there is not enough pressure.

More Filipino-Americans also consider being a good parent as important (69%), while over half (51%) say having a successful marriage is important in their lives.

Political views

Politics was also part of the survey, and it revealed that 61% of Filipino Americans surveyed are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the US at present.

It also revealed that Filipino Americans are nearly split evenly along party lines: 40% are Republicans or leaning Republican, and 43% are Democrats or leaning Democratic. The group is also the most moderate among the 6, with 42% saying they are moderate compared to 33% referring to themselves as conservative and 20% liberal.

Among Asian Americans, they are also the most participative in civic activities (48%), but all other groups nearly have the same percentages.

“Asian Americans constitute a growing, but still rare population,” the research group said.

“But despite often sizable subgroup differences, Asian Americans are distinctive as a whole, especially when compared with all U.S. adults,” the research center said. –

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