Asian people

"Asians" redirects here. For a nomadic Central Asian people of antiquity, see Asii.
For the individual peoples of Asia, see ethnic groups in Asia. For demographic data, see demography of Asia.

Asian people[1] or Asiatic people[2] are people who descend from a portion of Asia's population.

There are varieties of definition and geographical data presented by organizations and individuals for classifying the ethnic groups in Asia.

Definitions by country

Anglophone Africa and Caribbean

In parts of anglophone Africa, especially East Africa and South Africa, and in parts of the Anglophone Caribbean, the term "Asian" is more commonly associated with people of South Asian origin, particularly Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans.[3]


Main article: Asian Australian

The Australian Census includes Central Asia. The Australian Census includes four regions of Asia in its official definition. Defined by the 2006–2011 Australian Census, three broad groups have the word Asian included in their name: Central and Southern Asian, South-East Asian and North-East Asian. Russians are classified as Southern and Eastern Europeans while Middle Easterners are classified as North African and Middle Easterners.[4]


Main article: Asian Canadian

The Canadian Census uses the term 'Asian' pan-continentally and the list of visible minorities includes "West Asian", "South Asian", "Central Asian" and "Southeast Asian".[5] The Canadian government uses "West Asian" in its statistics; however people from the Arab countries of Western Asia are counted in a separate "Arab" category.[6][7]

New Zealand

New Zealand's census undertaken by Statistics New Zealand defines the Asian to include people of Chinese, Indian, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, Cambodian and Thai ancestries.[8] In less formal contexts, the term Asian often does not include South Asian people.[9]


Statistics Norway uses the term 'Asian' pan-continentally and considers people of Asian background to be people from all Asian countries.[10][11]


Main article: Asian in Sweden

Statistics Sweden uses the term 'Asian' to refer to immigrants of Asian background from all Asian countries, including the Middle East.[12][13]

United Kingdom

Main article: British Asian

In the United Kingdom, the term "Asian" is more commonly associated with people of South Asian origin, particularly Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans.[3][14] The UK usage of the term "Asian" is reflected in the "ethnic group" section of UK census forms, which treat "Asian" and "Chinese" as separate (see British Asian).[15] Most respondents to the UK 2001 Census of non-Chinese East Asian and Southeast Asian descent chose to write-in their ethnicity in the "Other Ethnic Group" category rather than the "Other Asian" category, reflecting the association of the word Asian in the UK with South Asian.[16] Despite there being a strong presence of East Asians in the United Kingdom there are considerably more South Asians, for example the 2001 Census recorded 1.05 million people of Indian origin and 247,000 of Chinese origin in the UK.[17] Peter J. Aspinall of the Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, recommends privileging the term "South Asian" over the term "Asian", since the term "Asian" is a "contested term".[14]

United States

Asian ancestries as defined by the 2000 U.S. Census.
Eugene H. Trinh, a Vietnamese American biochemist who flew aboard NASA Space Shuttle mission STS-50 as a Payload Specialist

In 1968, an Asian activist conference decided on favoring the name "Asian American" over the competing terms: "yellow", "Mongoloid", "Asiatic" and "Oriental", since the Filipinos at the meeting thought they were "brown" rather than "yellow" and the conference thought the term "Oriental" was Eurocentric, since they originate from lands "east" only from Europe's standpoint and, since the term "Oriental" suggested to them "passivity".[18]

Earlier Census forms from 1980 and prior listed particular Asian ancestries as separate groups along with White and Black or Negro.[19] Previously, Asian Americans were classified as "other".[20] But the 1980 Census marked the first general analyses of Asians as a group, combining several individual ancestry groups into "Asian or Pacific Islander." By the 1990 Census, Asian or Pacific Islander (API) was included as an explicit category, although respondents had to select one particular ancestry.[21][22][23]

The 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census Bureau definition of the Asian "race" includes those who originate from the original peoples of the "Far East", "Southeast Asia" and the "Indian subcontinent".[24]

In 1930 and 1940, Indian Americans were identified as a separate race, Hindu, and in 1950 and 1960 they were racially classified as Other Race, and then in 1970 they were classified as White. Since 1980, Indians and all other South Asians have been classified as part of the Asian ethnic group.[25] Sociologist Madhulika Khandelwal described how " a result of activism, South Asians came to be included as 'Asians' in the census only in the 80's. Prior to that many South Asians had been checking 'Caucasian' or 'Other'."[26]

Respondents can also report their specific ancestry, e.g.: Okinawan, etc. Someone reporting these ancestries but no race would be classified as "Asian". Unlike South Asians, Jewish Americans, Israeli Americans, Arab Americans, Iranian Americans and Central Asian Americans have not lobbied to be included as Asians by the U.S. Census Board.[27]

In normal American usage Asian does not refer to the people from the Pacific Islands who are usually called Pacific Islanders.[28] The term "Asians and Pacific Islanders" or "Asia/Pacific" was used on the 1990 US Census.[29] However, in the 2000 US Census, the Asian or Pacific Islander category was separated into two categories, "Asian" and "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander".[30]

Arab States of the Persian Gulf

In the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, the term "Asian" generally refers to people of South Asian and Southeast Asian descent due to the large Indian, Pakistani and Filipino expatriate population in these countries.[31][32][33] However, there are instances where the term is used solely to refer to those of South Asian descent.[34]

Definition by non-government sources

This is a genetic distance map of human populations made by geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford University.[35] Cavalli-Sforza referred to both "Asian Caucasoids" and "Mongoloids" in Asia which he also called "other Asians" as encompassing "Asian populations".[35] Cavalli-Sforza also referred to "Amerinds" as being the "aboriginal Asian group" of the Americas.[35]
Leonard Lieberman Professor of Anthropology at Central Michigan University said that the perception of there being a discrete Asian race in the mindset of the United States is due to immigration from the region circled in the picture, but Lieberman said the reality is that "not all Asians can be designated 'Mongoloid'".[36]
Uyghur girl in Turpan, Xinjiang, China, a natural blond with Epicanthus

A 2009 book about forensic anthropology said that the "leading handbook in human osteology" has kept on using the "traditional terms"' of "caucasoid, mongoloid, negroid", but "one of the most popular recent forensic anthropology textbooks" has changed to the "more current, politically correct terminology of Asian, white, black, Native American".[37]

Eugénia Maria Guedes Pinto Antunes da Cunha of the Department of Anthropology, University of Coimbra, Portugal, said there has been a modern trend in "most of the forensic anthropology literature" to "rename" the term "Mongoloid", a term in which she includes the "North American Indian", with the term "Asian" or "Asiatic".[38] Antunes da Cunha said that, even though the "terminology" has changed, the "underlying assumptions are the same".[38]

Karen T. Taylor forensic art professor at the FBI Academy, Quantico, Virginia, said that the term "Asian-derived" is a modern-day euphemism for the "Mongoloid race" and it includes "Native Americans" and "various Asian groups".[39]

In 2007, Kyung-Ran Jung et al. (Korean:전경란) of the Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of Ulsan, Seoul, South Korea used the term "Asian populations" for the group he also referred to as the "Asian-Mongoloid" in which he included Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Thai for a meta-analysis of alleles in relation to rheumatoid arthritis.[40]

Dr. Marta Mirazón Lahr of the Department of Biological Anthropology at Cambridge University said "all" "Asian populations" are "grouped under the name Mongoloid".[41]

Masniari Novita of the Biomedical Department of Jember University, Jember, Indonesia, said "Asiatics" are part of the "Mongoloid" race while "Asians from the Indian Subcontinent" are part of the "Caucasian" race.[42]

Matt Cartmill of the Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University, United States, said "geography has little to do with the race concept in its actual application", since "Asian individuals [can be] born in the same geographical region" as other races.[43]

Michael Bamshad et al. of the Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah, found that "107 sub-Saharan African, 67 East Asian and 81 Western European" individuals genetically clustered with "ancestry from a single population" at levels of "almost 100%", but among "263 individuals from South India" the "proportion of ancestry shared with Europeans and Asians varies widely".[44]

Sandra Soo-Jin Lee (Korean:이수진) of the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology at Stanford University, United States of America, said that the reasoning behind "Asian" being a "race" as defined by the US Census is "difficult to determine" because it includes "South Asians".[45]

Willett Enos Rotzell professor of Botany and Zoology at the Hahnemann Medical College used the term "Asian" "race" to refer to the race he alternatively called the "Yellow or Mongolian race".[46]

A writing style guide published in 2011 by two professors at universities in the United States of America recommends using the term "Asian" to refer to people living in Asian countries such as "China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, etc." unless a given situation makes using a more specific nationality term more appropriate than using the broader term "Asian".[47]

See also


  1. "Asian" Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary.
  2. United States National Library of Medicine. Medical Subject Headings. 2004. November 17, Asian Continental Ancestry Group is also used for categorical purposes.
  3. 1 2 British Sociological Association. Equality and Diversity. Language and the BSA:Ethnicity & Race. 2005. October 26.
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups Second Edition. 2005. August 20, 2006.
  5. '2001 Census Visible Minority and Population Group User Guide'
  7. West Asian - Google Search
  8. Statistics New Zealand. Asian people. 2006. December 4, 2006 Archived November 30, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. For example, "Asian and Indian people" are referred to in the New Zealand Heart Foundation's BMI calculator.
  10. (Norwegian) Immigration and emigration
  11. (Norwegian) SSB: Unge innvandrere i arbeid og utdanning – Er innvandrerungdom en marginalisert gruppe?
  12. (Norwegian)
  13. (Norwegian)
  14. 1 2 Aspinall, Peter J. Oxford Journals. Journal of Public Health. 2003. October 26, 2006.
  15. National Statistics. Ethnicity. 2005. August 27, 2006
  16. Gardener, David; Connolly, Helen (October 2005). "Who are the 'Other' ethnic groups?" (PDF). Office for National Statistics. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
  17. "Population size: 7.9% from a minority ethnic group". Office for National Statistics. 2003-02-13. Archived from the original on 27 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
  18. Yen Le Espiritu. (1992). Asian American Panethnicity: Bridging Institutions and Identities. Temple University Press, Philadelphia
  19. 1980 Census: Instructions to Respondents, republished by Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota at Accessed 19 Nov 2006.
  20. Lee, Gordon. Hyphen Magazine. "The Forgotten Revolution." 2003. January 28,
  21. 1990 Census: Instructions to Respondents, republished by Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota at Accessed 19 Nov 2006.
  22. Reeves, Terrance Claudett, Bennett. United States Census Bureau. Asian and Pacific Islander Population: March 2002. 2003. September 30, 2006.
  23. U.S. Bureau of Statistics
  24. Barnes, Jessica S. and Bennett, Claudett E. The Asian Population:2000. 2002. September 1, 2006.
  25. Campbell Gibson and Kay Jung. Historical Census Statistics On Population Totals By Race, 1790 to 1990, and By Hispanic Origin, 1970 to 1990, For Large Cities And Other Urban Places In The United States, Working Paper No. 76 (2005). See footnote 6 in paper
  26. Chandy, Sunu P. What is a Valid South Asian Struggle? Archived December 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. Report on the Annual SASA Conference. Accessed August 8, 2008.
  27. Not Quite White: Race Classification and the Arab American Experience Archived September 27, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., Arab American Institute, 1997, September 29, 2006.
  28. American Heritage Book of English Usage. Asian. 1996. September 29, 2006. Archived February 16, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  29. Census '90. Asian and Pacific Islanders in the United States. 1990. September 1, 2006.
  30. "Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity". Office of Management and Budget. 1997. The Native Hawaiians presented compelling arguments that the standards must facilitate the production of data to describe their social and economic situation and to monitor discrimination against Native Hawaiians in housing, education, employment, and other areas. Under the current standards for data on race and ethnicity, Native Hawaiians comprise about three percent of the Asian and Pacific Islander population. By creating separate categories, the data on the Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islander groups will no longer be overwhelmed by the aggregate data of the much larger Asian groups. Native Hawaiians will comprise about 60 percent of the new category. The Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander population groups are well defined; moreover, there has been experience with reporting in separate categories for the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population groups. The 1990 census included "Hawaiian," "Samoan," and "Guamanian" as response categories to the race question. In addition, two of the major tests conducted as part of the current review (the NCS and the RAETT) used "Hawaiian" and/or "Native Hawaiian," "Samoan," "Guamanian," and "Guamanian or Chamorro" as response options to the race question. These factors facilitate breaking apart the current category.
  31. The source discusses car accidents amongst Asians, Emiratis and other Arabs in the UAE.
  32. "Kuwait Asians" is a community website for the Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Filipino expatriate population in Kuwait.
  33. The source discusses the Asian Town complex in Qatar that was created for the Asian expatriate community from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
  34. Time Out Dubai is a book written by local experts on travel in the UAE and the authors use the words "Asian" and "Filipino" separately.
  35. 1 2 3 Cavalli-Sforza, L.L., Menozzi, P. & Piazza, A. (1994). The History and Geography of Human Genes. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  36. Lieberman, Leonard. (1997). Race 1997 and 2001: A Race Odyssey. American Anthropological Association. pp. 7 & 19
  37. Pickering, R. & Bachman, D. (2009). The Use of Forensic Anthropology (2nd ed.). USA: CRC Press. Pages 104 & 105.
  38. 1 2 Aurore Schmitt, Eugénia Maria Guedes Pinto Antunes da Cunha, and João Pinheiro. (2006). Forensic Anthropology and Medicine: Complementary Sciences from Recovery to Cause of Death. Humana Press. ISBN 1-59745-099-5
  39. Taylor, K.T. (2001). Forensic Art and Illustration. CRC Press LLC. pp. 60 ISBN 0-8493-8118-5
  40. Kyung Ran Jun, Sung-Eun Choi, Choong-Hwan Cha, Heung-Bum Oh,corresponding author Yong-Seok Heo, Hong-Yup Ahn, and Kwan-Jeh Lee. J Korean Med Sci. Meta-analysis of the Association between HLA-DRB1 Allele and Rheumatoid Arthritis Susceptibility in Asian Populations. 2007 December; 22(6): 973–980.
  41. Lahr M. M. (1995). "Patterns of modern human diversification: Implications for Amerindian origins". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 38: 163–198. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330380609.
  42. Novita, Masniari. (2006). Facial, upper facial, and orbital index in Batak, Klaten, and Flores students of Jember University. Dent. J. (Maj. Ked. Gigi), Vol. 39. No. 3 116–119
  43. Cartmill, M. (1999). The Status of the Race Concept in Physical Anthropology. American Anthropologist 100(3)651 -660.
  44. Michael Bamshad, Stephen Wooding, Benjamin A. Salisbury and J. Claiborne Stephens. (2004). DECONSTRUCTING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GENETICS AND RACE. Nature Publishing Group. (5) pp. 598.
  45. Lee, Sandra S. Mountain, Joanna. Barbara, Koening A. The Meanings of Race in the New Genomics: Implications for Health Disparities Research. Yale University. 2001. October 26, 2006.
  46. Willett Enos Rotzell. (1905). Man: an introduction to anthropology. Philadelphia.
  47. Blakesley, D. &, Hoogeveen, J. (2011). Writing: A Manual for the Digital Age, Brief (2nd ed.). Wadsworth Publishing. pp. 431. ISBN 978-0495833376
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