Asians fastest growing ethnic group in Iowa

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the Asian population is now the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in Iowa. In 2012, the number of people living in Iowa who identified themselves as Asian climbed to just over 60,000.

That marks a 10.6% increase from 2010. Sanjita Shrestha is director of the Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs within the Iowa Department of Human Rights. She says large groups of refugees from new areas have been coming to the U.S. since 2008.

“They are coming from Bhutan. They are Bhutanese refugees coming out of Nepal,” Shrestha says. “And a big a group from Burma…have resettled in Iowa.” The areas of Iowa with the largest populations of Asians are Polk, Johnson, Story, Linn and Scott counties. Shrestha says many Asians who come here are reuniting with family members and finding jobs.

“They tend to think Iowa is a good place for employment and they find jobs quicker and easier. That’s been one of the main pulls in Iowa as well,” Shrestha says. The rapid growth in Iowa’s Asian population creates some challenges for schools, businesses, and health care providers – to name a few.

“That’s where my focus is…trying to help them, not only get ready for the new population coming in, but educating them on who they are, what kind of language assistance they might require, and things like that,” Shrestha says. Asians now comprise 2% of Iowa’s populace, according the Census Bureau. Asians are also the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group across the entire U.S. Iowa’s Hispanic population grew by 7.5% from 2010 to 2012.

Latinos making up at least 10 percent of the population in 10 Iowa counties, a jump from seven counties in 2008.