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If buying a home is the American dream, then Taiwanese immigrants are living it: 76 percent owned their home in 2008, far ahead of immigrants overall and slightly higher than the ownership rate among the native born.
The United States is home to about 342,000 Taiwanese immigrants, making them the 24th-largest immigrant group in the United States, similar in size to the Japanese and Iranian immigrant populations. Although they share some of the same characteristics as the Chinese and Hong Kong born, Taiwanese immigrants are counted separately from them. Also, the group is likely undercounted as some Taiwanese born have identified themselves as "Chinese" or "other Asian" (without specification) in the race category of census forms.
The Taiwanese born were concentrated in California in 2008 and were better educated than both the immigrant and native-born populations overall (for more information on immigrants by state, see the ACS/Census Data tool on the MPI Data Hub). The poverty rate among Taiwanese immigrants was also much lower than that of the native born and immigrants generally.
Many Taiwanese left home as students in the 1960s and 1970s. A large number stayed because the United States offered opportunities that Taiwan did not, as well as democracy and freedom at a time when their homeland was still under political repression.
By the late 1970s, those who had settled in the United States had brought their families over. The Taiwanese American community has since developed a strong disapora identity, keeping both political and business ties between the United States and Taiwan.
A number of factors slowed emigration in the late 1980s and 1990s and even encouraged some Taiwanese immigrants to return, including a more democratic society following the end of martial law in 1987, a strengthened economy that needed the diaspora’s skills, and a higher standard of living.
Although the United States used to be a major destination for Taiwanese students, today more Taiwanese students are attending universities at home. Among those who study in the United States, a declining share settle down for the long run.
This spotlight focuses on Taiwanese 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 2008 American Community Survey (ACS) and 2000 Decennial Census, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) for 2008 and 2009.
Size and Distribution
Demographic and Socioeconomic Overview
Legal Immigrant Population
Size and Distribution
There were about 342,000 foreign born from Taiwan residing in the United States in 2008.
There were 342,000 foreign born from Taiwan residing in the United States in 2008, accounting for only about 0.9 percent of the country’s 38.0 million immigrants.
Relative to other groups, the Taiwanese-born population in the United States grew most rapidly during the 1980s, rising from the 32nd-largest group in 1980 to the 19th-largest group in 1990. It has since fallen to 24th place (see Table 1; see also the pie charts showing the top 10 countries of birth of immigrants residing in the United States over time here).
One in two Taiwanese born resided in California.
California had the largest number of Taiwanese immigrants (160,675 or 46.9 percent) in 2008, followed by New York (29,954, or 8.7 percent), Texas (24,781, or 7.2 percent), and New Jersey (14,085, or 4.1 percent).
Tracking the Taiwanese Diaspora
in the United States
Over half of Taiwanese immigrants resided in four metropolitan areas.
The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA, metropolitan area had the largest number of Taiwanese born in 2008 (83,294, or 24.3 percent), followed by New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA (39,617, or 11.6 percent); San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA (30,562, or 8.9 percent); and San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA (23,299, or 6.8 percent). These four metropolitan areas accounted for 51.6 percent of all Taiwanese immigrants in the United States.
Demographic and Socioeconomic Overview
One-third of all Taiwanese foreign born in the United States arrived in the 1980s.
As of 2008, 32.9 percent of the 342,000 Taiwanese foreign born entered the country between 1980 and 1989, 23.7 percent entered between 1990 and 1999, 20.5 percent in 2000 or later, and the remaining 23.0 percent prior to 1980.
By contrast, 20.0 percent of all foreign born entered the country between 1980 and 1989, 28.7 percent between 1990 and 1999, 29.5 percent in 2000 or later, and the remaining 21.8 percent before 1980.
Nearly three-quarters of Taiwanese immigrants in 2008 were adults of working age.
Of the Taiwanese immigrants residing in the United States in 2008, 2.6 percent were minors (under age 18), 70.7 percent were adults of working age (between 18 and 54), and 26.8 percent were seniors (age 55 and older).
Of the total foreign-born population in the United States in 2008, 7.4 percent were minors, 69.0 percent were of working age, and 23.6 percent were seniors.
Taiwanese immigrant women outnumbered men in 2008.
Over half of Taiwanese immigrants residing in the United States in 2008 were women (54.6 percent) and 45.4 percent were men. Among all immigrants, 49.8 percent were women and 50.2 percent were men.
Taiwanese immigrants were much more likely to be naturalized than the foreign born overall.
Among the Taiwanese foreign born, 71.8 percent were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 43.0 percent among the overall foreign-born population.
Half of Taiwanese immigrants in 2008 were limited English proficient.
About 8.5 percent of Taiwanese immigrants age 5 and older reported speaking “English only” while 39.6 percent reported speaking English "very well."
About an equal share, 50.2 percent, reported speaking English less than “very well” (making them limited English proficient), similar to the 52.1 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).
Seven of every 10 Taiwanese-born adults had a bachelor’s degree or higher.
In 2008, 71.6 percent of Taiwanese-born adults age 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 27.1 percent among all 31.9 million foreign-born adults and 27.8 percent of all 168.1 million native-born adults. An additional 14.1 percent had some college education or an associate’s degree compared to 16.4 percent among all immigrant adults and 30.8 percent of all native-born adults.
On the other end of the education continuum, only 4.7 percent of Taiwanese-born adults had no high school diploma or the equivalent general education diploma (GED), much lower than among all foreign-born adults (32.5 percent) and native-born adults (11.7 percent). About 9.6 percent had a high school diploma or GED compared to 21.9 percent among all foreign-born adults and 29.8 percent among native-born adults.
Taiwanese immigrant men were less likely to participate in the civilian labor force than foreign-born men overall.
In 2008, Taiwanese-born men age 16 and older were less likely to participate in the civilian labor force (76.2 percent) than all foreign-born men (80.5 percent). Taiwanese-born women (61.7 percent) were more likely to participate in the labor force than other immigrant women (57.1 percent).
More than half of employed Taiwanese-born men reported working in management, business, and finance; information technology; and sciences and engineering.
Among the 114,000 Taiwanese-born male workers age 16 and older in the civilian labor force in 2008, 23.2 percent reported working in management, business, and finance; 15.8 percent in information technology; and 14.2 percent in other sciences and engineering (see Table 2).
Over one-quarter of employed Taiwanese-born women reported working in management, business, and finance.
Among the 113,000 Taiwanese-born female workers age 16 and older employed in the civilian labor force in 2008, 27.9 percent reported working in management, business, and finance (see Table 2). Taiwanese women were also concentrated in administrative support (15.3 percent), sales (11.4 percent), and education/training and media/entertainment occupations (10.0 percent).
Taiwanese immigrants were less likely to live in poverty than both natives and the foreign born overall.
About 20.4 percent of Taiwanese immigrants lived in poverty in 2008 compared to 37.9 percent of all immigrants and 28.7 percent of the native born.
(Note: Poverty is defined as individuals residing in families with total annual income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line. Whether an individual falls below the official "poverty line" depends not only on total family income, but also on the size of the family, the number of children, and the age of the householder. The ACS reports total income over the 12 months preceding the interview date.)
Taiwanese immigrants were more likely to own their own home than both the native born and other immigrants.
In 2008, three-quarters (75.9 percent) of Taiwanese immigrants age 18 and older owned the home they resided in compared to 56.5 percent of all immigrants age 18 and older. The homeownership rate among Taiwanese immigrants was slightly higher than the homeownership rate among the native born (72.6 percent).
Taiwanese immigrants age 18 and older (51.8 percent) were more likely than other immigrants (44.3 percent) and about as likely as natives (50.8 percent) to reside in a household with a mortgage or home loan.
One in nine Taiwanese immigrants did not have health insurance in 2008.
About one in nine Taiwanese immigrants (11.2 percent) did not have health insurance in 2008 — much lower than the one in three uninsured rate (32.9 percent) among all immigrants and slightly lower than among the native born (12.9 percent).
About 113,000 children under age 18 resided in a household with a Taiwanese immigrant parent.
In 2008, about 113,000 children under age 18 resided in a household with an immigrant parent born in Taiwan. Most of these children (90.5 percent) were native-born U.S. citizens.
(Note: Includes only children who resided with at least one parent and households where either the household head or spouse was an immigrant from Taiwan.)
Legal Immigrant Population
About 93,000 Taiwanese gained lawful permanent residence in the United States between 2000 and 2009.
Between 2000 and 2009, the number of Taiwanese immigrants receiving lawful permanent residence (LPR) status (92,657) was lower compared to 1980 to 1989 (119,051) and 1990 to 1999 (132,647). The Taiwanese born accounted for 0.7 percent of the 1.1 million immigrants who received lawful permanent residence in 2009.
Two-thirds of all Taiwanese immigrants receiving lawful permanent residence in 2009 were admitted as family-based immigrants.
In 2009, 65.4 percent of Taiwanese immigrants receiving lawful permanent residence were admitted as family-based immigrants — principally as the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (3,372 or 42.0 percent) and as family-sponsored immigrants (1,884 or 23.4 percent). About a third (2,519 or 31.3 percent) obtained LPR status as employment-based immigrants or their family members.
Among the 1.1 million immigrants who became LPRs in 2009, 47.4 percent (535,554) came as immediate family of U.S. citizens, 18.7 percent (211,859) as family-sponsored immigrants, and another 12.7 percent (144,034) as employment-based immigrants. About 15.7 percent (177,368) of new LPRs were refugees and asylees who were admitted in prior years and adjusted their status in 2009.
Between 2000 and 2009, 86,000 Taiwanese immigrants naturalized.
According to OIS, 86,362 Taiwanese immigrants naturalized between 2000 and 2009, accounting for 1.3 percent of the 6.8 million new U.S. citizens in the first decade of the 21st century. The top five origin countries of new citizens in the same period were Mexico (1,114,645), India (427,040), Philippines (386,449), the People’s Republic of China (349,459), and Vietnam (348,917).
Taiwan ranked ninth among all countries of origin for foreign student admissions in the United States in 2009.
The 42,899 international students and exchange visitor admissions from Taiwan made up 3.0 percent of the 1.4 million such admissions in 2009 in the United States, according to OIS. Taiwan ranked ninth among all origin countries for students and exchange visitor admissions; China, South Korea, and India were the top three. (Note: Admissions refers to the number of entries, not individuals.)
According to separate research by the Institute of International Education, in the 2008-2009 academic year, Taiwan ranked sixth among all countries of origin for international students, with 28,065 students. Only India, China, South Korea, Canada, and Japan had more students at U.S. universities.
For information about ACS methodology, sampling error, and nonsampling error, click here.
Hoefer, Michael, Nancy Rytina, and Brayn Baker. Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2009. January 2010. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics. Available online.
Institute of International Education. 2009 Open Doors. Country Fact Sheets. Available online.
Monger, Randall and Nancy Rytina. 2009. U.S. Legal Permanent Residents : 2008. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics. Available online.
Ruggles, J., Steven, Trent Alexander, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Matthew B. Schroeder, and Matthew Sobek. 2010. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 5.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. Available online.
Rytina, Nancy. 2009. Estimates of the Legal Permanent Resident Population in 2008. October 2009. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics. Available online.
U.S. Census Bureau. 2008 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. 2008 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. Various tables. Available online.
Taiwan Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission. 2008 The Sixth Longitudinal Survey of Migrants to the United States. Available online.