Chinese on the American Frontier, 1880-1900: Explorations Using Census Microdata, with Surprising Results

Ken Chew, University of California, Irvine
John Liu, University of California, Irvine
Shila Patel, University of California, Irvine

This study uses the Integrated Public Use Microdata Sample (IPUMS) to recreate the structure and dynamics of the Chinese American population on the late 19th century western frontier. This watershed era marked the beginning of the Chinese Exclusion Acts, which (with only a few exceptions) embargoed immigration from China. Extracts of person records from 1880 (N=1,221) and 1900 (N=153) are used to portray trends in the distribution of Chinese Americans by age, sex, nativity, industry/occupation, household composition, and geographical area. A series of population simulations (based on cohort component projection) are used to investigate population dynamics. Our results imply a picture sharply at odds with conventional assessments on the demographic effects of Chinese Exclusion. Ramifications for Chinese community life are explored.

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Presented in Session 71: Asian and Asian-American Families in Historical Perspective