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Report Number WE-4
Component ID: #ti96782209

Introduction

We, the American Pacific Islanders, are a small but distinct and important component of the Asian and Pacific Islander population.

A companion report, “We, the American Asians” provides a statistical portrait of the Asian component of the Asian and Pacific Islander population.

The 1990 census counted 365,024 Pacific Islanders, a 41 percent increase over the 1980 count of 259,566. We are about 5 percent of all Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in 1990. Pacific Islanders include diverse populations who differ in language and culture. They are of Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian backgrounds. The Polynesian group is the largest of the three and includes Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongans, and Tahitians. The Micronesian group, the second largest, is primarily Guamanian (or Chamorros), but also includes other Mariana Islanders, Marshall Islanders, Palauans, and several other groups. The Fijian population is the largest Melanesian group.

Immigration was a major factor in the growth of the Asian and Pacific Islander population as a whole, with large numbers coming to the United States from Asia and the Pacific Islands following the adoption of the Immigration Act of 1965.

Immigration played a much more varied role, however, in the growth of our Pacific Islander population. Only 13 percent of us were foreign born. Hawaiians are, of course, native to this land. Persons born in American Samoa are United States nationals with the right of free entry into the United States, and since 1950 inhabitants of Guam are United States citizens.

In addition to immigration and natural increase, part of our growth between 1970 and 1990 reflects changes in the race question on the census form to include more groups, as well as improvements in collection and processing procedures in the 1990 census.

Although some groups are small, all Pacific Islander groups are important and make continuing contributions to the diversity of the United States. The table at the end of this report shows some characteristics for selected Pacific Islander groups. This report, however, will focus on the five largest Pacific Islander groups.

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