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Burmese Americans

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Burmese Americans
မြန်မာဇာတိနွယ် အမေရိကန်
Total population
0.07% of the U.S. population (2021)
Regions with significant populations
English, Burmese, Karen, Karenni, Chin, Rohingya, Arakanese, Thai
Theravada Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam
Related ethnic groups
Burmese people, Bamar people, Karen people, Karenni people, Rohingya people, Burmese Britons, Burmese Australians

Burmese Americans (Burmese: မြန်မာဇာတိနွယ် အမေရိကန် [mjəmà nwɛ̀bwá ʔəmèjḭkàɰ̃]) are Americans of full or partial Burmese ancestry, encompassing individuals of all ethnic backgrounds with ancestry in present-day Myanmar (or Burma), regardless of specific ethnicity.[3] As a subgroup of Asian Americans, Burmese Americans have largely integrated into the broader Southeast Asian and South Asian American communities.[4]

In 2021, the Burmese American population stood at 233,347.[3] Indiana had both the largest Burmese community[5] and highest percentage of Burmese of any state.[6] Indianapolis, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, and Fort Wayne are home to the largest Burmese American populations.[7] As of August 2023, the Burmese population stands at 322,000, according to the Burmese American Community Institute.[8]



The first Burmese to study in the United States was Maung Shaw Loo, of Mon descent, who came in 1858 to study at the University at Lewisburg (now Bucknell University) in Pennsylvania. He graduated with a medical degree in 1867 and returned to Burma the following year.[9]

In 1894, the case of In re Po ruled that Burmese are not white according to common knowledge and legal precedent.[10]

The first major wave of immigrants from Burma (now Myanmar) occurred from the 1960s to the late 1970s, after Ne Win established military rule in 1962, following the 1962 Burmese coup d'état.[11] Most immigrants were primarily of Sino-Burmese descent, who arrived in increasing numbers following the 1967 anti-Chinese riots.[12] The Burmese Chinese were the first major group of Theravada Buddhists to immigrate to the United States and were largely educated professionals, business entrepreneurs and technically skilled workers.[12][11] A minority were of Anglo-Burmese and Indian descent. Some Burmese immigrated to the United States after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished the previously existing quota on Asian immigrants.[13]

A second wave occurred from the late 1980s to the early 1990s after the national uprising in 1988.[11] This wave was more diverse, including Bamars, Karens, and other ethnic minorities, including political refugees involved in the 8888 Uprising.[11] They are concentrated in Fort Wayne, Indiana.[14] Between 1977 and 2000, 25,229 Burmese immigrated to the United States, although the figure is inaccurate because it does not include Burmese who immigrated via other countries to the U.S.[15]

A third wave of immigration, from 2006 to date, has been primarily of ethnic minorities in Myanmar, in particular Karen refugees from the Thai-Burmese border.[13][15] From October 2006 to August 2007, 12,800 Karen refugees resettled in the United States.[15]

Burmese in far smaller numbers continue to immigrate to the United States today mainly through family sponsorships and the "green card lottery". Thousands of Burmese each year apply for a Diversity Immigrant Visa (previously known as "OP" and now called "DV"), a lottery-based program that grants visas to those who wish to reside in the United States.


Historical population
Source: American Community Survey, United States census

The Burmese American population has significantly increased since the beginning of the 21st century, due to an ongoing wave of immigration, and changes in self-identification. From 2000 to 2010, the population increased by a factor of 5.[16]

In the lead-up to the 2010 census, an awareness campaign was conducted by the Burmese Complete Count Committee, which consisted of Burmese American organizations, to convince Burmese Americans to self-identify as "Burmese" on their census forms.[17]

Following the 2010 census, "Burmese" became a distinct ethnic category (previously they were categorized as "other Asians.")[18] From 2010 to 2021, the population more than doubled. Following the 2021 February Coup, waves of Burmese have fled the junta, contributing to a surge in growth. According to the Burmese American Community Institute, as of August 2023, the Burmese American population stands at 322,000.


Drummers of the Rakhine minority performing on the Burmese New Year, Thingyan, in New York City

Many Burmese join already large immigration populations in mid-sized cities, especially those in the Rust Belt and Great Plains. In 2023, the top 20 cities with the most residents reporting Burmese ancestry were as follows:[19]

City Burmese




Indianapolis, IN 13,681 1.554%
Saint Paul, MN 10,870 3.509%
Fort Wayne, IN 8,172 3.111%
New York, NY 6,324 0.072%
Milwaukee, WI 5,242 0.907%
Omaha, NE 4,357 0.893%
Battle Creek, MI 3,500 7%
Tulsa, OK 3,229 0.786%
Utica, NY 3,111 4.807%
Des Moines, IA 3,075 1.440%
Kansas City, KS 3,047 1.956%
Buffalo, NY 3,024 1.096%
Jacksonville, FL 2,930 0.312%
Dallas, TX 2,850 0.219%
Amarillo, TX 2,782 1.388%
Bowling Green, KY 2,703 3.785%
Aurora, CO 2,662 0.694%
Phoenix, AZ 2,302 0.145%
Nashville, TN 2,212 0.324%
Fort Worth, TX 2,089 0.230%
Lewisville, TX 1,668 1.515%

Nuances regarding the diverse Burmese populations through cities in the U.S. are as follows:





As most Burmese are Buddhists, many Burmese Buddhist monasteries (kyaung), most of which also serve as community centers, have sprouted across most major cities in the United States. A few ethnic Mon and Rakhine monasteries serve their respective ethnic populations.

Burmese Christian churches consisting mainly of ethnic Karen, Chin, Kachin, and Anglo-Burmese congregations can also be found in large metropolitan areas. Many Burmese Christians were granted asylum in the U.S. as refugees.



Professional immigrants from the first and second waves of Burmese migration are generally bilingual in Burmese and English.[13] Others from more recent waves of Burmese migration tend to struggle in English, due to lack of exposure, especially refugees from more remote communities.[13] More recent immigrants tend to speak ethnic minority languages, not Burmese, as their primary mother tongue. Some Burmese Americans of Chinese descent speak some Chinese (typically Mandarin, Minnan, or Cantonese). Likewise, Burmese Americans of Indian descent may speak some Indic languages, usually Tamil or Hindi/Urdu.

Notable people


This is a list of notable Burmese Americans including both Burmese immigrants who obtained American citizenship, as well as their American descendants.

Community and economic issues




In 2019, approximately 25% of Burmese Americans lived under the poverty line, compared to the average of 10% for Asian Americans.[7] Burmese Americans had a homeownership rate of 45% in 2020 (compared to a national average of 64%), while 23% were college graduates (compared to a national average of 34%).[33]

Household income


In 2019, Burmese Americans had an average median household income of US$44,400 (equivalent to $52,912 in 2023) which is much lower than the Asian American average of US$85,800 (equivalent to $102,250 in 2023).[7] In 2020, the 5% of Burmese American households had an income above $200,000, lower than the national average of 8%, while 45% of households had an income below $40,000, higher than the national average of 33%.[33]

In 2014, when Americans' per capita income was divided by ethnic groups, Burmese Americans were found to be the second lowest-earning ethnic group per capita in the country, with a per capita income of $12,764, less than half of the American average of $25,825.[34]

See also



  1. ^ "US Census Data". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2023-03-25.
  2. ^ "Top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas by Burmese population, 2019".
  3. ^ a b Lin Zhan (2003). Asian Americans: Vulnerable Populations, Model Interventions, and Clarifying Agendas. Jones & Bartlett. ISBN 0-7637-2241-3.
  4. ^ Ph.D, Lan Dong (14 March 2016). Asian American Culture: From Anime to Tiger Moms [2 volumes]: From Anime to Tiger Moms. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781440829215. Retrieved 9 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Top 10 States | Largest Burmese Community | 2023 | Zip Atlas". zipatlas.com. Retrieved 2023-05-25.
  6. ^ "Top 10 States | Percentage of Burmese Population | 2023 | Zip Atlas". zipatlas.com. Retrieved 2023-05-25.
  7. ^ a b c Budiman, Abby (2021-04-29). "Burmese in the U.S. Fact Sheet". Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. Retrieved 2023-03-26.
  8. ^ "Burmese American Community Directory Released". Burmese American Community Institute. Retrieved 2024-01-13.
  9. ^ "The Burma Bucknell Connection || Bucknell University". Bucknell.edu. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  10. ^ "In re Po, 28 N.Y.S. 383, 7 Misc. Rep. 471 (1894)". Retrieved 2022-12-21.
  11. ^ a b c d Cooper, Amy (2014). "Burmese Americans". Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. Retrieved 2023-03-26.
  12. ^ a b Cheah 201.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-06-12. Retrieved 2008-06-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ Cheah 202.
  15. ^ a b c Cheah, Joseph (2008). Huping Ling (ed.). Emerging voices: experiences of underrepresented Asian Americans. Rutgers University Press. pp. 199–217. ISBN 978-0-8135-4342-0.
  16. ^ "Race Reporting for the Asian Population by Selected Categories: 2010". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  17. ^ Kiviat, Barbara (29 July 2009). "The Census Games: Groups Gear Up to Be Counted". Time. Archived from the original on 25 January 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  18. ^ Levin, Sam (4 August 2011). "Immigrants from Nepal and Burma grow into own Census category". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on 9 June 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  19. ^ "Largest Burmese Community in the United States by City | 2023 | Zip Atlas". zipatlas.com. Retrieved 2023-05-25.
  20. ^ "Percentage of Burmese Population in the United States by City | 2023 | Zip Atlas". zipatlas.com. Retrieved 2023-05-25.
  21. ^ "Karen Refugees From Burma" (PDF). Health.state.mn.us. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 April 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  22. ^ Holland, Rebecca (February 19, 2018). "HOW TWO MIDWEST CITIES ARE HANDLING ROHINGYA RESETTLEMENT". Pacific Standard. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  23. ^ "More than 25% of all Rohingya living in the United States reside in 53221, 53204, 53215, and 53207". Milwaukee Independent. May 5, 2021. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  24. ^ "Zomi USA: How a city in Oklahoma became home to an ethnic group from Southeast Asia". NBC News. Archived from the original on 2018-05-14. Retrieved 2018-05-13.
  25. ^ "Burmese refugees in Iowa summoned by U.S. immigration officials". Des Moines Register. Archived from the original on 2021-03-26. Retrieved 2018-05-13.
  26. ^ "Latest census data shows diversity on the rise in Lewisville, Flower Mound and Highland Village". Community Impact. 13 December 2021. Retrieved 30 November 2023.
  27. ^ Autry, Lisa. "Filmmaker in Bowling Green to showcase Burmese refugees". WKYU.
  28. ^ Garrison, Joey. "Rent hike in Nashville could dismantle a Burmese refugee community". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2022-02-03.
  29. ^ Jane C. Parikh (2015-04-16). "Battle Creek's Burmese now find the tastes of home in their own backyard". Secondwavemedia.com. Archived from the original on 2017-02-27. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  30. ^ "St. Joseph Catholic Church - Battle Creek, Michigan - Burmese Community". Stjosephbc.org. Archived from the original on 2017-02-27. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  31. ^ Mike Giglio (1 September 2009). "The Burmese Come to Houston". Houstonpress.com. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  32. ^ Ramos, Manny (2022-01-30). "Refugees drive West Ridge's growing Asian population". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2022-01-31.
  33. ^ a b Gebeloff, Robert; Lu, Denise; Jordan, Miriam (2021-08-21). "Inside the Diverse and Growing Asian Population in the U.S." The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-03-26.
  34. ^ "Median houseland income in the past 12 months (in 2014 inflation-adjusted dollars)". American Community Survey. United States Census Bureau. 2014. Archived from the original on 13 February 2020. Retrieved 29 December 2015.

Further reading

  • Cooper, Amy. "Burmese Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2014), pp. 373–380. online