Taiwanese Americans

Taiwanese Americans
Total population
0.07 percent of the U.S. population (2010)[1])
Regions with significant populations
Greater Los Angeles area, New York City metropolitan area, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle metropolitan area, Baltimore-Washington, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia
American English, Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, Hakka
Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Chinese Americans, Hong Kong Americans, Hoklo and Hokkien Americans, Hakka Americans, Overseas Taiwanese

Taiwanese Americans (Chinese: 臺灣裔美國人) are Americans who have full or partial Taiwanese heritage. This includes American-born citizens who descend from migrants from Taiwan. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 49% of people who consider themselves Taiwanese live in the state of California. New York and Texas have the second and third largest Taiwanese American populations, respectively.[1]

Immigration history

Prior to the 1950s emigration from Taiwan (then called Formosa) was negligible.[2] In 1600, 98% of the population on the island was Taiwanese aborigines. Dutch occupied southwestern Taiwan between 1624 and 1662, while Spanish occupied northwest Taiwan between 1626 and 1642. In the 17th and 18th centuries the island served as a destination point for migrating Han Chinese, primarily Hoklo and Hakka, from Fujian and Guangdong. Due to Qing dynasty policy, women and children were prohibited to emigrate to Taiwan, thus a large number of Han Chinese took aboriginal brides. Some plains aboriginals also adopted Chinese customs and language,[3] assimilating into the Han population.[4] A recent DNA study show that 85% of current Taiwan population has the mix of indigenous and Han Chinese heritage. In 1895, pursuant to the Treaty of Shimonoseki between the Qing dynasty and Empire of Japan, full sovereignty over Taiwan was ceded in perpetuity to Japan.

In 1945, Japanese rule ended due to Japan's loss in World War II. In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party took control of mainland China, and 2 million refugees, predominantly from the Republic of China (ROC) Nationalist government, military, and business community, fled to Taiwan.

Because of the Cold War, the United States continued to recognize the Kuomintang-led ROC as the sole legitimate government of all of China from 1949 until 1979. As a result, immigration from Taiwan was counted under within the same quota for both mainland China and Taiwan. However, because the People's Republic of China (PRC) banned emigration to the United States until 1977, this quota for immigrants from China was almost exclusively filled by immigrants from Taiwan. After the national origins system was relaxed and repealed by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 and 1965, many Taiwanese people came to the United States, forming the first wave of Taiwanese immigration. Their entry into the United States was facilitated by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which created a system in which persons with professional skills and family ties in the United States were given preferential status, regardless of the nation of origin.

In 1979, the United States broke diplomatic relations with the ROC, while the Taiwan Relations Act gave Taiwan a separate immigration quota from that of the PRC.

Before the late 1960s, immigrants from Taiwan to the United States tended to be "mainland Chinese" who had immigrated to Taiwan with the Kuomintang after the fall of mainland China to the Communists. Later immigrants tended to increasingly be native Taiwanese, whose ancestors had lived on Taiwan before 1949. With improving economic and political conditions in Taiwan, Taiwanese immigration to the United States began to subside in the early-1980s.


Main article: Model minority


Taiwanese culture places a high value on education, and many Taiwanese Americans are very highly educated and hold advanced degrees from numerous prestigious universities around the United States. They often engage in high-end occupations such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, professors, and scientists. In addition, Taiwanese Americans occupy positions in the aerospace, defense, research, academic, and health care sectors. Several distinguished academics, including Nobel Prize winners, are Taiwanese Americans. Among Taiwanese Americans, medicine is regarded as particularly high status for historical reasons. During Japanese rule (1895-1945), Taiwanese were barred from politics and administration but were encouraged to become doctors and teachers, leading to this profession being regarded as a high status means of social advancement.[5][6][7]

Taiwanese Americans from all social backgrounds have achieved significant advances in their educational levels, income, life expectancy and other social indicators as the financial and socioeconomic opportunities offered by the United States have lift many Taiwanese Americans out of poverty joining the ranks of the America's educated and upper middle class. Estimates indicate that a disproportionate percentage of Taiwanese students attend elite universities despite constituting less than 0.5% of the U.S. population. Taiwanese Americans have the highest education attainment level in the United States, surpassing any other ethnic group in the country, according to U.S Census Bureau data released in 2010. According to the 2010 Labor Statistics from U.S. Census Bureau, 73.6% of all Taiwanese Americans have attained a bachelor's or high degree (compared to 28.2% nationally and 49.9% for all Asian American groups). 80.0% of Taiwanese American men attained a bachelor's degree and 68.3% of Taiwanese American women attained a bachelor's degree. 39.1% of all Taiwanese in the United States possess a master’s, doctorate or other professional degree, which is nearly four times the national average.[8][9]

Bachelor's Degree or Higher Educational Attainment[10]
Ethnicity Percent of Population
Taiwanese 73.6%
Indian 71%
Chinese 51.8%
Japanese 47.4%
Non-Hispanic White 29.5%
Vietnamese 25.2%
General US Population 28.2%


Many Taiwanese Americans work as white collar professionals, many of whom are highly educated, salaried professionals whose work is largely self-directed in management, professional, and related occupations such as engineering, medicine, investment banking, law, and academia. 66.2% of Taiwanese Americans work in many white collar professions compared 35.9% for the general American population and 48.1% for Asian Americans. 71.3% of Taiwanese men and 60.4% of Taiwanese women are in working in management, professional, and related occupations. They also hold some of the lowest unemployment rates in nation with a figure of 4.3% compared to a national rate of 6.9%.[9] Some of the prominent technologies companies in the United States have been founded by Taiwanese Americans such as Jerry Yang (co-founder of Yahoo), Steve Chen (co-founder of YouTube), Jen-Hsun Huang (co-founder of Nvidia), William Wang (founder of Vizio) and James Chu (founder of Viewsonic).


According to the 2009 U.S. Census, Taiwanese American men had one of "the highest year-round, full-time median earnings" with a figure of $76,587, and Taiwanese American women had a median income of $51,307. They also have one of the highest median incomes among any ethnic minority in United States with a figure of $68,809, which is roughly 37% percent above the national average. They have one of the lowest poverty rates in nation with a figure of 9.5% compared to 11.3% for the general American population but the figure was slightly higher than for all Asian Americans which stood at 9.1%.[9]


Many Taiwanese immigrants have not settled in the old Chinatowns because they do not speak Cantonese. Instead, they have generally immigrated directly to American suburbia and in effect, they started new Taiwanese communities. For example, beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s at the height of Taiwanese immigration, the Taiwanese emigrants were instrumental in the development of Monterey Park, California in Los Angeles - thus causing it to earn the moniker of "Little Taipei" and derisively as "Mandarin Park" - and vicinity and in Flushing, New York, which generally reflected new investments and capital flowing from Taiwan into newer Taiwanese enclaves instead of the well-established and mostly dilapidated Chinatowns.

While Monterey Park is no longer the major Taiwanese community in Los Angeles today, Flushing remains the main vibrant Taiwanese cultural, commercial, and political center in New York City. In Los Angeles County, California, newer communities such as Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights, Arcadia, San Marino, Diamond Bar, Walnut, San Gabriel, Temple City, give the ambience of "Little Taipei." However, many annual Taiwanese cultural events (especially during Taiwanese Heritage Week) are still held in Monterey Park. As an attempt to duplicate the Taiwanese success of Monterey Park in Houston, Texas, Taiwanese immigrant entrepreneurs pioneered in the mid 1980s what is now widely considered as Houston's new Chinatown on Bellaire Boulevard (although many Vietnamese-born Chinese immigrants have increasingly settled and set up shop in the area as well). A number of Taiwanese American businesses and organizations still operate and flourish in this part of Houston.

The prestige and performance of particular school districts, as well as access to careers in high-tech firms, have in general played significant parts in influencing the settlement patterns of Taiwanese Americans. Areas with high concentrations of Taiwanese immigrants include the San Gabriel Valley (Greater Los Angeles), Santa Clara Valley (Cupertino, San Jose), East Bay (Dublin, Pleasanton, El Cerrito, Oakland), Los Angeles/Orange County border communities (Cerritos/Artesia), and Irvine in Central Orange County. Outside of California, there are also major Taiwanese concentrations in Flushing, New York, Rockville, Maryland (northwest of Washington, D.C.), Sugar Land, Texas (near Houston), Plano, Texas (near Dallas), Bellevue, Washington (and adjacent areas) (part of the Greater Seattle Area's "Eastside" communities), and Chandler, Arizona. Additionally, the northeastern suburbs of the Atlanta, Georgia area has also received a significant influx of Taiwanese immigrant residents. The Taiwanese population was formerly dominant in Monterey Park, California. The San Gabriel Valley has a larger population of "mainland Chinese" from Taiwan, essentially outnumbering native Taiwanese. Since the middle 1980s through the 1990s, however, large numbers of more affluent Taiwanese Americans began moving out to more upscale neighborhoods like Cupertino, San Mateo, Palo Alto, Fremont, Newark, and Pleasanton in the Bay Area; San Marino, Arcadia, South Pasadena, and Temple City in Western San Gabriel Valley; Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Walnut, and Diamond Bar in Eastern San Gabriel Valley; with immigrants from the People's Republic of China and Cantonese and Teochew (mostly from Vietnam) taking their place in Monterey Park, as well as Alhambra.

Similarly, for the past 10 years, Taiwanese have been immigrating to upscale neighborhoods in Los Angeles and Orange County such as Cerritos and Irvine respectively. The city of Cerritos is located in Los Angeles County but borders Orange County and has a large diversity of Asian immigrants. The city of Irvine has a very large Taiwanese population, though now more and more Mainland Chinese immigrants have flocked to the city. The Irvine Chinese School, which serves mostly the American-born children of Taiwanese immigrants, is one of the largest Chinese Schools in the Orange County area. These immigrants belong to branches from some of the most politically and economically powerful Taiwanese families (with the surnames Chiang, Chen, Cheng, Kung, Tsai, and Wu).

Convenient Taiwanese-oriented strip malls and shopping complexes are typically complete with supermarkets and restaurants, thus Taiwanese American suburbanites have very little need to visit the older Chinatowns. In addition, shops offering imported Taiwanese goods allow for young Taiwanese expatriates in the United States to keep up with the current trends and popular culture of Taiwan. Taiwanese Americans have also brought with them Taiwanese cuisine to the communities they have settled, which, possibly excluding bubble tea, is not generally well known or served outside these aforementioned Taiwanese immigrant enclaves.


Taiwanese Americans have also gradually increased their political engagement in the public sphere of the U.S. in recent years.

Notable examples include:

Immigrants vs. native-borns

First generation immigrants from Taiwan usually share a common language, Mandarin, although many also speak Taiwanese Hoklo and to a lesser extent, the Hakka language, depending on heritage and whether the individuals are exposed to Mandarin through Mandarin Chinese schools. Many first generation immigrants educated before 1945 speak Japanese as their second native language. As with most immigrants to the United States, linguistic fluency in the heritage language quickly disappears in the second generation. Many second generation Taiwanese Americans are exposed to Taiwanese, but their level of proficiency varies. Many second generation immigrants speak Taiwanese as their heritage language and know little Mandarin, while others, especially whose families are from the Taipei Metropolitan Area, speak Mandarin as their heritage language and know little Taiwanese. Second generation Taiwanese of Hakka descent tend to speak better Mandarin as their heritage language. There are many first generation Taiwanese of full Hakka heritage who may speak all three languages. Taiwanese Americans of mixed Hoklo and Hakka Heritage may speak only Mandarin as their heritage language.


Organizations geared towards Taiwanese Americans include the FAPA Formosan Association for Public Affairs, NATPA North America Taiwanese Professors Association, TACL Taiwanese American Citizens League, TAP Taiwanese American Professionals, and Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association (ITASA).. In addition, most cities with concentrations of Taiwanese Americans have a Taiwan association or Taiwan Center.

The first Taiwanese church in North America, the Winfield Reformed Church in Woodside, New York, was established in 1969.[11]


The Taiwanese also run several of North America's major Chinese-language newspapers, such as the World Journal and the Chicago Chinese News. However, these influential and highly circulated newspapers are not geared solely to the Taiwanese, but also serve a broader Chinese-speaking immigrant readership. Pacific Journal is a weekly Taiwanese-run newspaper that is geared more exclusively toward Taiwanese readers.

Due to the significant Taiwanese American community, Taiwanese media dominates the Chinese-language airwaves in the United States. Cable and satellite television of Taiwan-based media keeps Taiwanese Americans abreast of news developments and programming in Taiwan. For example, satellite stations ETTV America and CTI cater to Mandarin-speaking Taiwanese immigrants.

Connection to citizenship of Taiwan

In the 1960s, many Taiwanese Americans chose to make America their permanent home and had children in the U.S. Many sought refuge from the numerous arrests and executions of the White Terror of the Kuomintang. By the late 1970s, improving economic conditions in Taiwan slowed the rate of immigration. During the 1990s, political liberalization in Taiwan encouraged many who had left Taiwan for political reasons to return.

Although the oath of naturalization for the United States contains a statement renouncing "allegiance and fidelity" to other countries, Taiwan, the Republic of China does not recognize this renunciation as sufficient to end Taiwan, ROC citizenship, and requires that a person who wishes to renounce ROC citizenship make another oath before an ROC consular officer and get approval from the Ministry of the Interior,[12] subject to denial for certain reasons.[13] Without the formal renunciation, the ROC government considers Taiwanese emigrants with American citizenship to continue to be citizens of the ROC. Acquiring US citizenship does not cancel the holder's status as a citizenship of ROC, which makes Taiwanese Americans still eligible to vote in the ROC elections, provided that they physically travel to their place of residency.

However, for the children of emigrants from Taiwan, they can obtain nationality and some citizenship of ROC but not full one (they cannot get ID card and vote right of ROC automatically), because ROC makes a distinction between nationality and citizenship. Only when they have gotten household registration in Taiwan, can they obtain full citizenship of ROC.)

Passport of Taiwan
Passport of the United States

Connection to politics of Taiwan

Politically, Taiwanese Americans play a fairly active role in the politics and culture of the country, aided in large part by recognition of dual citizenship. The identity politics of Taiwan also influences at least first generation Taiwanese Americans. Many Kuomintang officials including Ma Ying-Jeou received graduate degrees in the United States. The United States was also a major destination for anti-Kuomintang figures such as Peng Ming-min and Tsai Throng-rong, where they were effectively exiled. Still others including Nobel Prize laureate Yuan T. Lee were educated in the United States.

The close connection between Taiwan and the United States has led to some interesting political dynamics. From time to time, the issue of loyalty to Taiwan is raised. For example, the fact that the President of the Republic of China Ma Ying-Jeou has sisters and a daughter who are American citizens was raised during the 2008 election campaign. James Soong has been criticized for having extensive property holdings in the United States and for the fact that his children are American citizens. Several legislators and government officials from KMT have been controversially alleged to have permanent U.S. residency status or U.S. citizenship without renouncement while serving in public office. Similarly, this has been raised as an issue in the feud between Li Ao and Yuan T. Lee, whose children are also American citizens. This issue is partly one of socio-economic status as people with extensive connections with the United States are considered richer and more privileged than the average Taiwanese.

However, this issue has not become a large part of Taiwanese political discourse largely because links with the United States are so extensive on both sides of the political spectrum, that no one can use this issue to their political advantage. Both the pan-Blue coalition and pan-Green coalition rely on Taiwanese Americans for votes. In the 2004 ROC Presidential Election an estimated 10,000 Taiwanese Americans traveled to Taiwan to vote in an election in which the margin of victory was 30,000, and both groups campaigned extensively in the United States and held campaign rallies in Taiwan to welcome their voters from near and far.

While dual citizens are banned from high political office,[14] there has not been a significant movement within Taiwan to ban dual citizenship in general. Taiwan's Supreme Court has ruled that all citizens, dual or singular, are entitled to the same rights. US natural born citizens were emphasized in the decision.

Notable individuals

See also



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