Burmese Americans

How big is Burmese America?

We Burmese Americans are an elusive bunch. We’re rather underrepresented among Asian Americans. But our exact numbers are unknown. The other day, my mom asked me how big the Burmese American community was, and to that I had no answer. So I turned to some numbers from the 2010 Census, which shed some light on the size of the Burmese American community.

For more on my series about Burmese Americans, click on the “Burmese Americans” tag.

WHERE THE BURMESE AMERICAN POPULATION STANDS

Burmese American population

The 2010 census tabulated 100,200 individuals of Burmese descent, representing about 0.6% of the Asian American population. Between the 2000 and 2010 Censuses, the Burmese population increased by over 499%, from 16,720 to 100,200.

Burmese American population: 2000 and 2010

This exponential increase is due to 2 major factors:

  • Self-identification as ‘Burmese’ (due to increased awareness and campaigns like the Burmese Complete Count Committee)
  • Entry of refugees from Burma (especially ethnic minorities such as the Chin, Karen, and Kachin)

However, I feel that this number is a bit of an underestimate, because a great number of Burmese Americans are members of the Chinese and Indian communities and for whatever reason, may have not manually written in “Burmese” in order to be counted as such.

Burmese Americans’ place in Asian America

Burmese Americans among Asian Americans

Despite this increase, Burmese Americans are the 5th least numerous among the 20 Asian American groups, wedged between the Bangladeshi Americans and the Indonesian Americans:

Rank Ethnicity Total Population % of Asian Americans
1 Chinese 3,794,673 21.2%
2 Filipino 3,416,840 19.0%
3 Indian 3,183,063 17.7%
4 Vietnamese 1,737,433 9.7%
5 Korean 1,706,822 9.5%
6 Japanese 1,304,286 7.3%
7 Other Asian 658,912 3.7%
8 Pakistani 409,163 2.3%
9 Cambodian 276,667 1.5%
10 Hmong 260,073 1.4%
11 Thai 237,583 1.3%
12 Laotian 232,130 1.3%
13 Taiwanese 230,382 1.3%
14 Bangladeshi 147,300 0.8%
15 Burmese 100,200 0.6%
16 Indonesian 95,270 0.5%
17 Nepalese 59,490 0.3%
18 Sri Lankan 45,381 0.3%
19 Malaysian 26,179 0.1%
20 Bhutanese 19,439 0.1%

Burmese Americans’ place in Southeast Asian America

Among the 6,382,375 Southeast Asians, Burmese Americans are ranked 7th most numerous, between the Laotian Americans and Indonesian Americans:

Rank Ethnicity Total Population % of Southeast Asians
1 Filipino 3,416,840 53.5%
2 Vietnamese 1,737,433 27.2%
3 Cambodian 276,667 4.3%
4 Hmong 260,073 4.1%
5 Thai 237,583 3.7%
6 Laotian 232,130 3.6%
7 Burmese 100,200 1.6%
8 Indonesian 95,270 1.5%
9 Malaysian 26,179 0.4%

It’s notable that the size of the documented Burmese American community has grown to six digits in the past decade. While it pales in comparison to the Burmese diaspora in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, the United States still has one of the world’s largest communities of overseas Burmese.

References

I obtained this data from the 2010 Census Summary File 2, PCT1-Population Group-Burmese alone or in any combination (404) & (100-299) or (300, A01-Z99) or (400-999): TOTAL POPULATION.

3 thoughts on “How big is Burmese America?

  1. Wagaung says:

    Push and pull factors must operate, like the first for the Vietnamese, Cambodians, Hmong and Laotians, the second for the Chinese, Indian and Filipinos. It can be both of course in all of the above like in the case of the Burmese, refugees/asylum seekers as well as economic migrants. Migration of peoples is always interesting be it back in the mist of time or a more recent diaspora.

    Look at the ‘irregular migrants’ both across the Mediterranean and the Bay of Bengal, both push and pull factors in play, whether they are ‘authentic Rohingya’ or not in the case of the latter. I guess this will escalate as the inherent instability plus the division and subdivision of the non-Western world economically and financially (no gunboats necessary except in ‘dire straits’) by the Western corporations, the exponential widening of the gap between the haves and the have nots, proxy wars and direct interventions, proceed apace in the name of globalisation. One can see a good percentage of these new boatpeople (who cannot actually become boatpeople unless they have the wherewithal, beg, borrow or steal) ending up in the US.

  2. Mira says:

    Compiling the number of the Burmese population must be a daunting task and I commend anyone who does it.
    According to the BACI in Indiana who does a good job of gathering Burmese statistics, states that the Burmese refugee population in the US is 146,037. I assume that when they said Burmese refugee population, it could mean refugees and non-refugees of Burmese descent. At least I took it as that but I could be wrong. It does a break down of the ethnic groups which I thought was amazing.
    Here is the link. It also has other statistics in it.
    http://www.baci-indy.org/resources/burmese-refugee-population-in-the-us

    • Aung Kyaw says:

      Thanks for sharing this link, Mira. It’s quite amazing to see the size of the Burmese refugee population. According to the site, “Note: the raw data are primarily obtained from the Word Refugee Processing Center operated by the US Department of State, and also Community leaders and local churches in Indiana.”

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