American-born Chinese

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American-born Chinese
Total population
0.55% of the U.S. population (2015)
Regions with significant populations
New York City Area, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles Area
Predominantly English, varieties of Chinese
Unaffiliated, Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism,[2] and Taoism
Related ethnic groups
Asian Americans,
Overseas Chinese, Chinese Canadians

American-born Chinese or ABC (simplified Chinese: 美国出生华裔; traditional Chinese: 美國出生華裔; pinyin: Měiguó chūshēng huáyì) is a term widely used to refer to natural born American citizens of Chinese descent, excluding first-generation immigrants. It is therefore a sub-category of the term Chinese Americans, the latter of which also includes those who were born in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan but naturalized as U.S. citizens.

Contested usage[edit]

According to some, the term has perpetual foreigner connotations. It has been noted that the term differs from existing patterns of immigrant designation in American English. For example, Peter Thiel is considered a "German-born American," and Elon Musk is considered a "South African-born American." In both of these cases, the first demographic word refers to the person's citizenship at birth, and the second refers to his citizenship at present. However, in the case of "American-born Chinese," the first demographic word refers to the subject's citizenship at birth (or at present) and the second word to ethnicity.[3]

It has also been observed that, in practice, the term American-born Chinese includes hundreds of thousands of Americans of Chinese descent who were, technically speaking, not born in America, but rather, were brought over by their parents at a young age. This indicates that the term may be a misnomer.


In differing degrees, many ABCs draw together Chinese family culture with American societal culture, developing a transnational life and identity.[4] However, this begins to shift in subsequent generations as families structures change through interracial marriage. In 2000, approximately 45% of American-born Chinese marry non-Chinese Americans; this is contrasted with Chinese Americans more generally, whereby 81.5% of men and 77.9% of women married other Chinese Americans.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

The term was used in the 2006 comic book by Gene Luen Yang, entitled American Born Chinese. It draws together the stories of three seemingly unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves into a new school and neighborhood to find he is the only Chinese American; the Monkey King of the Chinese fable Journey to the West; and Danny, whose annual visits by his Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee, ruin his life.[6][7]

In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, when Awkwafina's character speaks to Ronny Chieng's character in English, Chieng's character says, "Oh, yeah, I speak 'ABC'."


  1. ^ "Chinese in the U.S. Fact Sheet". Pew Research Centre. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Asian Americans: A Mosaic of Faiths". The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Pew Research Center. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2013. Unaffiliated 52%, Protestant 22%, Buddhist 15%, Catholic 8%
  3. ^ "ABC: Another Derogatory Term".
  4. ^ Liu, Haiming (2005). The Transnational History of a Chinese Family: Immigrant Letters, Family Business, and Reverse Migration. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. pp. 163–209. ISBN 9780813535975.
  5. ^ Zinzius, Birgit (2005). Chinese America: Stereotype and Reality: History, Present, and Future of the Chinese Americans. New York: Peter Lang. pp. 217–218. ISBN 9780820467443.
  6. ^ Yang, Gene Luen (2006). American Born Chinese. New York: First Second. ISBN 9781429969369.
  7. ^ Beebe, Nathaniel (May 9, 2015). "American Born Chinese". AAA 201: Introduction to Asian/Asian American Studies, Miami University. Archived from the original on June 15, 2018. Retrieved June 15, 2018.

See also[edit]