In 1965, the Asian-American share of the U.S. population stood at less than 1 percent having been held down by a century’s worth of exclusionary policies explicitly based on race. That was the year at the height of the civil rights movement and in the heat of a roaring economy that the U.S. government opened the gates to immigration from all parts of the world, Asia included. The effect has been transformative for the nation and for Asian Americans. Today they make up nearly 6% of the U.S. population. And in an economy that increasingly relies on highly skilled workers, they are the best-educated, highest-income, fastest-growing race group in the country.
Immigrant communities have been an indispensable element of United States metropolitan life, often playing the role of a way station on a long journey of assimilation. Reflecting this, a linear spatial assimilation theory asserts that immigrants settle initially in a segregated urban ethnic enclave and disperse as they achieve economic, social, and cultural assimilation. The growth of suburban immigrant communities over the last couple of decades, however, challenges this traditional notion; suburban residency is no longer the final stage of assimilation. For many new immigrants, suburbia has become the first stop rather than an eventual destination.
The 21st Century Americanism survey was conducted to study (1) the multidimensional nature of American identity (“Americanism”); (2) resentment among Whites toward immigrants, Latinos, and Asians, fueled by perceptions that these groups violate the cherished norms that constitute American identity (“symbolic nativism”); (3) how perceptions of discrimination affect the process of “becoming American” among ethnic minorities (“reactive ethnicity”); and (4) the relationships among these issues and public opinion on policies that address ethnic change. The data collection began in July 2004 and was completed by October 2004.