New Report Looks at Asian Population in Chinatown and Beyond

A newly released report looks at how the Asian American population in neighborhoods across the city, including in Manhattan’s Chinatown, is changing.  According to the analysis of Census data by the the advocacy and housing organization, Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), the Asian population in New York City is growing rapidly and dispersing beyond historical ethnic enclaves.

There are almost 60,000 Asian residents of Community District 3 (the Lower East Side and Chinatown), making up 35% of the neighborhood’s population. Only Flushing and the surrounding area has a higher concentration of Asian residents (more than 100,000 live there). But study author Douglas Nam Le said Chinatown’s population growth is flat, an indication that more new immigrants are settling in outer-borough neighborhoods.

The data used in the report comes from the 2005-2009 American Community Survey, not from the 2010 Census (the new figures won’t be available for a few weeks). According to the report, there are around a million Asian American New Yorkers, making up 12.2% of the city’s population. The community has grown by nearly 17% since the year 2000 (NYC’s total population grew by just 3.7% during the same time period). There are nine community districts in which Asians makes up at least 25% of the population.

Across the city, the poverty rate for Asians is not vastly different than it is for the general population. But it’s a different story in many of New York’s traditional Asian communities. In Chinatown, for example, it’s nearly 33%. Many Asians in Chinatown also live in overcrowded households (17% vs. 8.5% for the general population). The report found that non-profit groups aiding Asian New Yorkers only receive about 1% of the available funding for social services.

The study advises: “local government and elected officials need to be encouraged to invest more in this emerging population and to provide more funding for organizations that serve Asian Americans.”  It also advocates devoting more resources to English language programs and to creating more affordable housing.

AAFE Executive Director Chris Kui says the dispersion of Asians throughout the city presents a political opportunity. Two years ago, Margaret Chin (an AAFE founder) became the first Chinese American to represent Chinatown on the City Council. The report shows, he believes, that Asians are well positioned to run for political office and to win in many other neighborhoods.

More broadly, Kui says, the report is meant to be used as a tool by community activists to advocate for Asian New Yorkers, who together make up the city’s fastest growing and most diverse ethnic group.