E.g., 11/24/2014
E.g., 11/24/2014

Vietnamese Immigrants in the United States

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Vietnamese Immigrants in the United States

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The 1980 census recorded 231,120 foreign born from Vietnam in the United States. By 2006, the number of Vietnamese immigrants had quintupled to 1.1 million, making them the fifth largest immigrant group in the United States after the Mexican, Filipino, Chinese, and Indian foreign born.

Nearly two-thirds of all Vietnamese immigrants resided in just six states although their numbers are declining in 16 states and the District of Columbia (for more information on immigrants by state, please see the 2006 ACS/Census Data tool on the MPI Data Hub).

Compared to other immigrant groups, foreign-born men from Vietnam have a lower rate of participation in the civilian labor force than immigrant men overall, and civilian employed immigrant men from Vietnam are concentrated in manufacturing, installation, and repair occupations.

This spotlight focuses on Vietnamese immigrants residing in the United States, examining the population's size, geographic distribution, and socioeconomic characteristics using data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey (ACS) and 2000 Decennial Census, and the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) for 2006 and 2007.

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Size and Distribution

Definitions
The U.S. Census Bureau defines the foreign born as individuals who had no U.S. citizenship at birth. The foreign-born population includes naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, legal nonimmigrants (including those on student, work, or other temporary visas), and persons residing in the country without authorization.

The terms foreign born and immigrant are used interchangeably.

 

Demographic and Socioeconomic Overview

Legal and Unauthorized Vietnamese Immigrant Population

Size and Distribution

There were 1.1 million foreign born from Vietnam residing in the United States in 2006.
The 1,117,800 Vietnamese immigrants in 2006 was 3.8 times higher than the 231,120 Vietnamese foreign born counted in the 1980 decennial census. In 2006, the Vietnamese born were the fifth-largest foreign-born group in the United States after immigrants from Mexico, the Philippines, China, and India.

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Vietnamese immigrants made up 3 percent of all immigrants in 2006.
In 1980, Vietnamese immigrants composed 1.6 percent of all foreign born in the United States. That share grew to 2.7 percent in 1990 and then to 3.2 percent in 2000 (see Table 1). In 2006, the share of Vietnamese among all immigrants decreased slightly to 3.0 percent.

 

Table 1. Total and Vietnamese Foreign-Born Populations, 1960 to 2006

Year Foreign born
Vietnamese born
Rank (a) Share of all
foreign born
Number
1960 9,738,091 N N N
1970 9,619,302 N N N
1980 14,079,906 12 1.6% 231,120
1990 19,797,316 9 2.7% 543,262
2000 31,107,889 5 3.2% 988,174
2006 37,547,315 5 3.0% 1,117,800

Notes: a Rank refers to the position of the Vietnamese born relative to other immigrant groups in terms of size of the population residing in the United States in a given census year. N indicates that data is unavailable.
Source: Data for 2000 from the 2000 census; data for 2006 from the American Community Survey 2006. Data for earlier decades from Gibson, Campbell and Emily Lennon, U.S. Census Bureau, Working Paper No. 29, Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-Born Population of the United States: 1850 to 1990, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC., 1999. Available online.


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Nearly two-thirds of all Vietnamese immigrants resided in just six states.
In 2006, California had the largest number of Vietnamese immigrants (446,397, or 39.9 percent), followed by Texas (129,779, or 11.6 percent), Washington (49,084, or 4.4 percent), Virginia (37,841, or 3.4 percent), Florida (37,076, or 3.3 percent), and Massachusetts (33,933, or 3.0 percent).

Together, these six states accounted for 65.7 percent (734,110) of all Vietnamese-born immigrants.

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA was the metropolitan area with the largest number of Vietnamese born (210,366, or 18.8 percent), followed by San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA (89,990, or 8.1 percent), and Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX (49,264, or 5.4 percent). These three metropolitan areas accounted for 36.6 percent of the 1.1 million Vietnamese immigrants in 2006.

 

Map 1. State Proportion of the Vietnamese-Born Population in the United States (PDF)


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The size of the Vietnamese immigrant population grew by more than 50 percent in seven states between 2000 and 2006.
Between 2000 and 2006, seven states, most of them with small Vietnamese immigrant populations, saw the number of Vietnamese immigrants grow by more than 50 percent. These seven states were West Virginia, Arizona, Alabama, Nevada, New Hampshire, Alaska, and South Carolina (see Table 2).

 

Table 2. Top 10 States for Growth of the Vietnamese Born, 2000 to 2006

  2000 2006 Change 2000 to 2006
West Virginia 328 693 111.3%
Arizona 10,127 19,547 93.0%
Alabama 3,406 6,416 88.4%
Nevada 4,902 9,011 83.8%
New Hampshire 1,440 2,532 75.8%
Alaska 723 1,220 68.7%
South Carolina 3,098 4,962 60.2%
South Dakota 595 889 49.4%
New Jersey 13,337 19,344 45.0%
Colorado 11,892 16,660 40.1%

Source: 2000 census; 2006 American Community Survey.


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In 16 states and the District of Columbia, the size of the Vietnamese immigrant population declined between 2000 and 2006.
Between 2000 and 2006, the Vietnamese immigrant population declined in 16 states and the District of Columbia (see Table 3). The states with the largest percentage declines in the Vietnamese immigrant population were mostly states with a small foreign-born population from Vietnam, including Wyoming, Maine, Idaho, Arkansas, Wisconsin, and Tennessee.

 

Table 3. States with a Decline in the Vietnamese-Born Population, 2000 to 2006

  2000 2006 Change 2000 to 2006
Wyoming 32 0 -100.0%
Maine 909 503 -44.7%
Idaho 1,077 681 -36.8%
Arkansas 3,002 1,937 -35.5%
Wisconsin 2,932 2,010 -31.4%
Tennessee 5,949 4,094 -31.2%
District of Columbia 1,651 1,191 -27.9%
Vermont 796 581 -27.0%
Mississippi 3,338 2,503 -25.0%
Connecticut 6,680 5,074 -24.0%
Hawaii 8,775 7,393 -15.7%
Louisiana 16,767 14,342 -14.5%
Utah 4,920 4,356 -11.5%
Oklahoma 9,958 8,974 -9.9%
Kansas 9,105 8,989 -1.3%
Rhode Island 792 782 -1.3%
Pennsylvania 26,656 26,613 -0.2%

Source: 2000 census; 2006 American Community Survey.


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Demographic and Socioeconomic Overview

About one of every seven Vietnamese foreign born in the United States arrived in 2000 or later.
Of the 1.1 million Vietnamese foreign born in the United States in 2006, 14.1 percent entered the country in 2000 or later, with 37.0 percent entering between 1990 and 1999, 30.1 percent between 1980 and 1989, 18.0 percent between 1970 and 1979, and the remaining 0.8 percent prior to 1970.

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Nearly three-quarters of Vietnamese immigrants in 2006 were adults of working age.
Of the Vietnamese immigrants residing in the United States in 2006, 4.8 percent were minors (under age 18), 72.2 percent were of working age (between ages 18 and 54), and 23.1 percent were seniors (age 55 or older).

Of the foreign-born population in the United States in 2006, 8.1 percent were minors, 69.9 percent were of working age, and 22.1 percent were seniors.

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The Vietnamese-born population living in the United States in 2006 was evenly split between men and women.
Of all Vietnamese immigrants residing in the country in 2006, 49.2 percent were men and 50.8 percent were women.

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The majority of Vietnamese immigrants were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2006.
Among the Vietnamese foreign born, 72.8 percent were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2006, compared to 42.1 percent among the overall foreign-born population.

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About two-thirds of Vietnamese immigrants in 2006 were limited English proficient.
About 5.4 percent of the 1.1 million Vietnamese immigrants age 5 and older reported speaking "English only" while 25.9 percent reported speaking English "very well." In contrast, 68.7 percent reported speaking English less than "very well," which is much higher than the 52.4 percent reported among all foreign born age 5 and older.

(Note: The term limited English proficient refers to any person age 5 and older who reported speaking English "not at all," "not well," or "well" on their survey questionnaire. Individuals who reported speaking only English or speaking English "very well" are considered proficient in English).

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Over half of Vietnamese foreign-born adults had a high school degree or less.
In 2006, 30.8 percent of the 1.1 million Vietnamese-born adults age 25 and older had no high school diploma or the equivalent general education diploma (GED), compared to 32.0 percent among the 30.9 million foreign-born adults. About 24.8 percent had a high school diploma or GED compared to 23.8 percent among all foreign-born adults.

On the other end of the education continuum, about 23.6 percent of Vietnamese immigrants had a bachelor's degree or higher compared to 26.7 percent among all immigrants.

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Vietnamese immigrant men were less likely to participate in the civilian labor force than foreign-born men overall.
In 2006, Vietnamese-born men age 16 and older were less likely to be in the civilian labor force (74.6 percent) than foreign-born men overall (79.3 percent). By contrast, Vietnamese-born women age 16 and older were more likely to be in the civilian labor force (60.4 percent) than all foreign-born women (55.1 percent).

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Over one-quarter of Vietnamese-born men were employed in manufacturing, installation, and repair occupations.
Among the 372,432 Vietnamese-born male workers age 16 and older employed in the civilian labor force, 27.3 percent reported working in manufacturing, installation, and repair occupations, and 17.2 percent reported working in services. Compared to other immigrants, Vietnamese-born male workers age 16 and older employed in the civilian labor force were also more likely to report working in information technology and in other sciences and engineering (see Table 4).

Both Vietnamese foreign-born men and women were significantly less likely to be employed as construction, extraction, and transportation workers than foreign-born men and women overall.

 

Table 4. Occupations of Employed Workers in the Civilian Labor Force Age 16 and Older by Gender and Origin, 2006

  Vietnamese foreign born All foreign born
  Male Female Male Female
Persons age 16 and older employed in the civilian labor force 372,432 314,656 13,285,912 8,921,521
Total percent 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Management, business, finance 9.7 9.9 10.2 9.8
Information technology 6.0 2.8 3.9 1.9
Other sciences and engineering 8.9 3.4 4.1 2.3
Social services and legal 0.7 0.9 1.0 1.9
Education/training and media/entertainment 2.4 3.5 3.3 6.9
Physicians 1.6 1.1 1.3 1.0
Registered nurses 0.3 1.3 0.3 3.3
Other health-care practitioners 1.8 3.1 0.9 3.0
Health-care support 0.7 1.6 0.6 5.2
Services 17.2 30.9 16.9 25.0
Sales 7.9 8.0 7.8 10.9
Administrative support 6.6 13.1 5.5 15.1
Farming, fishing, and forestry 0.5 0.2 2.5 1.1
Construction, extraction, and transportation 8.6 2.3 26.8 3.4
Manufacturing, installation, and repair 27.3 18.0 15.0 9.4

Source: 2006 American Community Survey.


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Legal and Unauthorized Vietnamese Immigrant Population

The Vietnamese foreign born accounted for about 2.8 percent of all lawful permanent residents living in the United States in 2006.
According to data from the Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS), the Vietnamese foreign born accounted for 2.8 percent (340,000) of the 12.1 million lawful permanent residents (LPRs, also known as green card holders) living in the United States in 2006. They are the sixth-largest LPR group after the foreign born from Mexico (27.3 percent or 3.3 million), the Philippines (4.5 percent or 540,000), India (4.2 percent or 510,000), China (3.8 percent or 460,000), and the Dominican Republic (3.6 percent or 430,000).

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About 685,000 Vietnamese have gained lawful permanent residence in the United States since 1990.
Between 1990 and 2007, 684,901 Vietnamese-born immigrants obtained lawful permanent residence in the United States (see Figure 1). The Vietnamese born accounted for 2.7 percent (or 28,691) of the total 1.1 million immigrants who received lawful permanent residence in 2007.

 

Figure 1. Number of Vietnamese Born Who Received Lawful Permanent Residence in the United States, 1990 to 2007
Note: This figure includes both immigrants admitted and those who adjusted their status after arrival.
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics, 2007 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics and 2004 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.


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Almost half of Vietnamese-born lawful permanent residents in 2007 were admitted as the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
Of the 28,691 Vietnamese born granted LPR status in 2007, 48.7 percent (13,974) were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, 43.3 percent (12,430) were family-sponsored immigrants, and 6.2 percent (1,768) were refugees and asylees.

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Vietnamese-born lawful permanent residents made up 2.7 percent of all those eligible to naturalize as of 2006.
Vietnamese-born LPRs are the sixth-largest group of permanent residents eligible to naturalize. According to OIS estimates, of the 8.3 million LPRs eligible to apply for citizenship as of 2006, 220,000 (2.7 percent) were born in Vietnam.

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The number of Vietnamese refugees admitted to the United States has nearly halved since 2000.
In 2007, the United States admitted 1,500 Vietnamese nationals as refugees, 3.1 percent of the 48,217 refugees admitted. The number of refugees admitted from Vietnam has nearly halved since 2000 (2,841) and has declined 94.5 percent since 1990 (27,378).

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In 2006, 1.4 percent of all unauthorized immigrants in the United States were from Vietnam.
OIS has estimated that 160,000, or 1.4 percent, of the approximately 11.5 million unauthorized migrants in 2006 were born in Vietnam.

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The number of unauthorized immigrants from Vietnam stayed constant between 2000 and 2006.
The estimated number of unauthorized immigrants from Vietnam has been constant since 2000, remaining around 160,000. Unauthorized immigrants from Vietnam declined as a share of the total number of unauthorized immigrants from 1.9 percent in 2000 to 1.4 percent in 2006.

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For information about ACS methodology, sampling error, and nonsampling error, click here.

Sources

Baker, Bryan. 2007. Trends in Naturalization Rates. December 2007. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics. Available online.

Hoefer, Michael, Nancy Rytina, and Christopher Campbell. 2007. Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2006. August 2007. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics. Available online.

Jefferys, Kelly J. and Daniel C. Martin. 2008. Refugees and Asylees: 2007. July 2008. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics. Available online.

Rytina, Nancy. 2008. Estimates of the Legal Permanent Resident Population in 2006. February 2008. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics. Available online.

U.S. Census Bureau. 2006 American Community Survey. Accessed from Steven Ruggles, Matthew Sobek, Trent Alexander, et al., Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 3.0. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Population Center, 2004.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics. 2007 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Table 3: Persons Obtaining Legal Permanent Resident Status by Region and Country of Birth: Fiscal Years 1998 to 2007. Available online.