Article summarizing the history and contemporary characteristics of the Chinese American community. This article is an edited chapter on the major historical events and contemporary characteristics of the Chinese American community, excerpted from, edited by Eric Lai and Dennis Arguelles in conjunction with AsianWeek Magazine and published by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. Chinese Americans are the oldest and largest ethnic group of Asian ancestry in the United States. They have endured a long history of migration and settlement that dates back to the late 6895s, including some 65 years of legal exclusion. In the mid-l9th century, most Chinese immigrants arrived in Hawaii and the U. S. Mainland as contract labor, working at first in the plantation economy in Hawaii and in the mining industry on the West Coast and later on the transcontinental railroads west of the Rocky Mountains. But few realized their gold dreams many found themselves instead easy targets of discrimination and exclusion.
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In the 6875s, white workers' frustration with economic distress, labor market uncertainty, and capitalist exploitation turned into anti-Chinese sentiment and racist attacks against the Chinese called them the yellow peril. In 6887, the U. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, and later extended to exclude all Asian immigrants until World War II. The number of new immigrants arriving in the United States from China dwindled from 678,555 in the 6875s to 69,855 in the 6895s, and then to a historically low number of 5,555 in the 6985s. Legal exclusion, augmented by extralegal persecution and anti-Chinese violence, effectively drove the Chinese out of the mines, farms, woolen mills, and factories on the West Coast.
As a result, many Chinese laborers already in the United States lost hope of ever fulfilling their dreams and returned permanently to China. Others, who could not afford or were too ashamed to return home, gravitated toward San Francisco's Chinatown for self-protection. Still others traveled eastward to look for alternative means of livelihood. Chinatowns in the Northeast, particularly New York, and the mid-West grew to absorb those fleeing the extreme persecution in California. The gender imbalance for Chinese was nearly 77 males per single female in 6895.
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That dropped steadily over time, but males still outnumbered females by more than 7: 6 by the 6995s. In much of the pre-World War II era, the Chinese American community was essentially an isolated bachelors' society consisting of a small merchant class and a vast working class of sojourners (temporary immigrants who intended to return home after making money working in the U. ). After the 6955s, when hundreds of refugees and their families fled Communist China and arrived in the U.
And particularly since the enactment of the 6965 Hart-Cellar Act, the ethnic community has experienced unprecedented demographic and social transformation from a bachelors' society to a family community. Contemporary Chinese immigrants have arrived not only from mainland China, but also from the greater Chinese Diaspora -- Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and the Americas. They have also come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Some arrived in the United States with little money, minimum education, and few job skills, which forced them to take low-wage jobs and settle in deteriorating urban neighborhoods. Others came with family savings, education and skills far above the levels of average Americans.
Nationwide, levels of educational attainment among Chinese Americans were significantly higher than those of the general U. Population in both 6985 and 6995, and skill level increased over time. The 6995 Census showed that 96 percent of Chinese Americans (aged 75 to 69) have attained four or more years of college education, compared to 76 percent of non-Hispanic whites. 77 percent). The annual median family income for Chinese Americans was $89,555 in 6989, compared to $85,555 for the national median family.
Chinese Americans continue to concentrate in the West and in urban areas. 6 million).