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This is chiefly because the Census definitions determine many government classifications, notably for equal opportunity programs and measurements.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "Asian person" in the United States is sometimes thought of as a person of East Asian descent.

while those with origins or ancestry in North Asia (Russians, Siberians), Central Asia (Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Turkmens, etc.), the Western Asia (diaspora Jews, Turks, Persians, West Asian Arabs, etc.), and the Caucasus (Georgians, Armenians, Azeris) are classified as "White" or "Middle Eastern".

The definition of Asian American has variations that derive from the use of the word American in different contexts.

Immigration status, citizenship (by birthright and by naturalization), acculturation, and language ability are some variables that are used to define American for various purposes and may vary in formal and everyday usage.

Asian American author Stewart Ikeda has noted, "The definition of 'Asian American' also frequently depends on who's asking, who's defining, in what context, and why...

The term refers to a panethnic group that includes diverse populations who have ancestral origins in East Asia, Southeast Asia, or South Asia, as defined by the U. Asian Americans with no other ancestry comprise 4.8% of the U. population, while people who are Asian alone or combined with at least one other race make up 5.6%.

This includes people who indicate their race(s) on the census as "Asian" or reported entries such as "Asian Indian", "Chinese", "Filipino", "Korean", "Japanese", "Thai", "Vietnamese", or other Asian groups.

Despite this, a 2014 report from the Census Bureau reported that 12% of Asian Americans were living below the poverty line, while only 10.1% of non-Hispanic white Americans live below the poverty line.As with other racial and ethnicity based terms, formal and common usage have changed markedly through the short history of this term.Prior to the late 1960s, people of Asian ancestry were usually referred to as Oriental, Asiatic, and Mongoloid.The term Asian American was coined by historian Yuji Ichioka, who is credited with popularizing the term, to frame a new "inter-ethnic-pan-Asian American self-defining political group" in the late 1960s.Changing patterns of immigration, and an extensive period of exclusion of Asian immigrants, have resulted in demographic changes that have in turn affected the formal and common understandings of what defines Asian American.For example, since the removal of restrictive "national origins" quotas in 1965, the Asian American population has diversified greatly to include more of the peoples with ancestry from various parts of Asia.