Asians have surpassed Hispanics as the largest stream of new immigrants to the United States, pushing the population of Asian descent to a record 18.2 million and helping to make Asians the fastest-growing racial group in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.
While Asian immigration has increased slightly in recent years, the shift in ranking is largely attributable to the sharp decline in Hispanic immigration, the study said.
About 430,000 Asians - or 36 percent of all new immigrants, legal and illegal - moved to the United States in 2010, compared with 370,000 Hispanics, or 31 percent of all new arrivals, the study said. Just three years earlier, the ratio was reversed: about 390,000 Asians immigrated in 2007, compared with 540,000 Hispanics.
Pew researchers estimated that Asian immigration surpassed Hispanic immigration by 2009. Taylor said in an interview on Monday that the delay in identifying this shift was due in part to the fact that the analysis relied on later demographic data, including the 2010 American Community Survey.
The findings are part of a study called "The Rise of Asian-Americans," a comprehensive analysis of the Asian population in the United States. The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan organization in Washington that has provided some of the most reliable estimates for illegal immigration.
Drawing on Census Bureau and other government data as well as telephone surveys from Jan. 3 to March 27 of more than 3,500 people of Asian descent, the 214-page study found that Asians are the highest-earning and best-educated racial group in the country.
Among Asians 25 or older, 49 percent hold a college degree, compared with 28 percent of all people in that age range in the United States. Median annual household income among Asians is $66,000 versus $49,800 among the general population.
Indians, for instance, lead all other Asian subgroups in income and education, the report said. Indians, Japanese and Filipinos have lower poverty rates than the general public, while Koreans, Vietnamese and Chinese have higher poverty rates.
Taylor said there was still value in the macroanalysis.
"For better or worse, throughout our history, we've always used race as a prism to understand who we are," he said. "Anything that illuminates the latest immigration wave, that illuminates a growing race group, helps us to understand ourselves better."