With the issue of repatriated Cambodians from the U. S. once again in one of the recent Phnom Penh Post headlines, I wondered how many Cambodian Americans are there really in the U. S. Sometimes one is led to believe that there are vast numbers. So I once again checked those numbers.
The 2010 U. S. census counted 244,000 Cambodians in the U. S., of which about 15,000 live in Long Beach and 13,000 in Lowell. One Cambodian civic leader said in a Voice of America interview that there are 300,000 Cambodians in the U. S. but only 100,000 show up in the census. This is, of course, belied by the census. The census figure matches another survey done in 2005, which counted roughly 241,000 Cambodians (http://portfoliolab.org/portal/DesktopDefault.aspx?pId=2&TabId=67&HtmlId=256&MenuId=59 ). The 300,000 probably applies to the Cambodian population outside Cambodia.
The latter survey also points out an interesting factor – the median age is 25.3. Now that’s pretty young. Unfortunately, the median age doesn’t give you the proportion of age groups. Nevertheless, it’s lower than the number for the entire U. S. population. The younger people grew up in the U. S. and identify as Americans. All the more surprising is that 44.2% speak English less than well. This figure speaks directly to the average level of education.
So altogether, I believe Cambodian-Americans, not the least that relatively paltry number in Long Beach, are vastly overrated in their significance on homeland Cambodian life. I now also seem to notice a more critical view in native Cambodians of life in the U. S. as a more realistic view sets in.