A recent Pew Research Center survey finds that many Asian Americans choose to conceal elements of their cultural heritage due to the fear of ridicule and a desire to assimilate.
About the findings: The survey, conducted between July 2022 and January 2023, revealed that one in five Asian American adults admitted to hiding their customs, food, clothing or religious practices from non-Asians. Various factors were identified as influencing the likelihood of Asian Americans hiding their heritage.
Most inclined to do so: The report further highlighted that U.S.-born children of Asian immigrants are the most likely among Asian Americans to hide part of their heritage, with 32% of them admitting to having done so, compared to 15% of immigrants.
Meanwhile, second-generation Asian Americans — those with at least one immigrant parent — were even more inclined to conceal their culture from non-Asians, with 38% reporting having engaged in such behavior. This second-generation group constitutes a significant portion of the U.S. Asian population, making up 34% and primarily consisting of English-speaking individuals under 30 years old.
Group influence: The likelihood of an Asian American having hidden their heritage is influenced by the groups they belong to. Compared to other Asian-origin groups, Korean Americans are more likely to conceal aspects of their heritage, with 25% of Korean adults admitting to having done so.
In terms of age groups, younger Asian Americans — those aged 18 to 29 — are twice as likely as older Asian adults to have hidden their cultural identity. Political affiliation also played a role, with Asian adults leaning Democratic more likely to have hidden their identity (29%) compared to those identifying with or leaning toward the Republican Party (9%).
Meanwhile, English-dominant Asian adults are more likely to have hidden part of their heritage (29%) compared to bilingual individuals (14%) and those who primarily speak their Asian origin language (9%).
Why they do this: The respondents attributed concealing heritage to a variety of factors, with embarrassment and fear of being misunderstood cited as common explanations. Recent Asian immigrants often concealed their heritage to fit into U.S. culture and avoid negative judgments.
U.S.-born Asian Americans with immigrant parents often hid their heritage while growing up in attempt to fit in and to avoid reinforcing stereotypes.
Some multiracial Asian Americans and those with more distant immigrant roots occasionally concealed their heritage in an attempt to pass as white.