In a recent Pew Research Center survey conducted from July 2022 to January 2023, it was found that one in five Asian American adults has hidden a part of their heritage, which includes cultural customs, food, clothing, or religious practices, from non-Asians at some point in their lives. This phenomenon is often driven by a fear of ridicule and a desire to fit in.
The study also reveals that the likelihood of concealing one’s heritage is influenced by factors like birthplace and immigrant roots. U.S.-born Asian adults are more likely (32%) to hide their heritage compared to immigrants (15%). Among U.S.-born Asians, second-generation individuals (those with at least one immigrant parent) are more prone to concealing their culture from non-Asians (38%) than third- or higher-generation Asian Americans (11%).
The second-generation Asian American population constitutes a significant portion, making up 34% of the U.S. Asian population, with the majority being under the age of 30 and primarily English speakers.
The survey also highlights other insights into who is more likely to hide their heritage:
- Korean Americans (25%) are more likely than some other Asian origin groups to hide their heritage.
- Younger Asian Americans (ages 18 to 29) are about twice as likely as older Asian adults to conceal their culture.
- Democrats or those leaning Democratic are more likely to hide their identity compared to Republicans.
- English-dominant Asian adults are more prone to hiding their heritage compared to those who primarily speak their Asian origin language.
The reasons for concealing heritage vary but often include feelings of embarrassment or a lack of understanding from others. Recent Asian immigrants may hide their culture to fit into the U.S. and avoid potential negative judgments, while U.S.-born Asian Americans with immigrant parents may have hidden their heritage to assimilate into predominantly White society and avoid reinforcing stereotypes. Some multiracial Asian Americans and those with more distant immigrant roots may hide their heritage to pass as White.
Despite the challenges and struggles associated with hiding their heritage, many second-generation Asian Americans express pride in their cultural background and a desire to share it with non-Asians, highlighting the importance of cultural diversity and understanding in society.