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All posts copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le.
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The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.

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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

December 2, 2007

Written by C.N.

The Rise of the Nguyens

One common theme in many of my posts is the fact that as we move forward into the 21st century, the U.S. is becoming more and more diverse — demographically and culturally. As proof, New American Media points out that Asian surnames, particularly the Vietnamese name Nguyen, are becoming increasingly common:

Smith is still the number one family name in America. Yet 29 of the top 1000 family names (2.9 percent), according to the Census Bureau, are Asian-derived names. You can see on the list the major impact that APA immigration and birth rates have had on family names in America.

For the first time that anyone can remember, a non-Anglo Saxon name made it to the top ten. Garcia and Rodriguez are in the top ten, and Martinez almost edged out Wilson for tenth place.

The Lee family name, ranked 22 on the list, was split between 37 percent Asian Pacific Americans (mostly Chinese and Korean Americans) and 63 percent non-APAs. With 605,860 total Lees in America when the count was taken, there must be 224,168 APA Lees amongst us.

Almost three percent of Youngs were listed as APAs, but the most predominant APA surname was Nguyen, which was 57 on the list (310,125 Americans have this last name, or 225 of every 100,000 Americans). . . .

Yes, it is still true that about one in 25 Americans is a Jones, Johnson, Smith, Miller, Williams, Brown or Davis. But if current trends continue, they may soon be trying to keep up with the Lees, Kims and Nguyens.

This updated Census data provides pretty convincing proof that American society in indeed becoming much more diverse. There shouldn’t be any disagreement there. The debate comes in regarding the question of whether these demographic and cultural changes are beneficial for American society.

Earlier I posted about a comprehensive study from a Harvard professor that argued that contrary to most liberal beliefs, increasing levels of racial/ethnic diversity is associated with less civic engagement and social trust.

However, I also posted about ways in which particular communities around the country, rather than denying or running away from such changes, have addressed these demographic and cultural changes going on around them directly, in one prominent example, using religious similarities as the “social glue” to integrate newcomers into their community.

As I wrote in that second post, “traditionalists” who decry such demographic and cultural changes can only run and hide from them for so long. Sooner or later, unless they decide to retreat permanently into the woods or some other environment that involves being completely isolated from other humans, they will come face-to-face with the effects of this social evolution.

With that in mind, it may be more difficult in the short term to try to address such changes constructively, but as the example of the church in Georgia shows in my post mentioned above, the benefits are much more direct and tangible, both for the particular community in question, and for American society in general.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "The Rise of the Nguyens" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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