Laotian Americans

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Laotian Americans
Total population
263,298[1] (estimate, 2016)
Regions with significant populations
Arkansas (Fort Smith), California (Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno), Minnesota (Minneapolis-St Paul), Illinois (Elgin), Washington (Seattle-Tacoma), Rhode Island (Providence), Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth), Louisiana (Lafayette, New Iberia), Colorado (Denver), New York (Johnson City, NY)
Lao, American English, French, Isan, Thai
Theravada Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Lao people, overseas Laotian, Laotians in France, Laotian Canadians, Asian Americans,

Laotian Americans are Americans who trace their ancestry to Laos. Laotian Americans are included in the larger category of Asian Americans. The major immigrant generation were generally refugees who escaped Laos during the warfare and disruption of the 1970s, and entered refugee camps in Thailand across the Mekong River. They emigrated to the United States during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.

The "national origin" category of Laotian American, which is different from ethnic groups, includes all ethnic groups who lived within the borders of Laos, such as the Hmong, ethnic Chinese, Overseas Vietnamese, and ethnic Vietnamese.


Laotian immigration to the United States started shortly after the Vietnam War. Refugees began arriving in the U.S. after a Communist government came to power in Laos in 1975 and by 1980, the Laotian population of the U.S. reached 47,683, according to census estimates. The numbers increased dramatically during the 1980s so the census estimated that there were 147,375 people by 1990. The group continued to grow, somewhat more slowly, to 167,792 by 2000.[2] By 2008, the population nearly reached 240,532. Included are the Hmong, a mountainous tribe from that country with their own ethnic designation: Hmong Americans.

The states with the largest Laotian American populations (including the Hmong from Laos) are California (58,424, 0.2%), Texas (13,298, 0.1%), Minnesota (10,065, 0.2%), Washington (9,333, 0.2%), Colorado (7,434, 0.1%), Tennessee (6,336, 0.1%), Illinois (5,822, 0.1%), North Carolina (5,566, 0.1%), Georgia (5,560, 0.1%), Florida (4,896, 0.05%), and Oregon (4,692, 0.1%). There are about over 200,000 ethnic Lao in America. Approximately 8,000 to 11,000 Americans are of mixed Lao and other descent. Ethnic Lao people may identify as both Lao American and Laotian American (see also Hmong American).[3]

Most were estimated to live in the West (95,574), followed by the South (44,471), Midwest (37,820), and Northeast (15,382).

Cities or regions with significant Laotian-American populations include the Seattle metropolitan area (enumerating 12,190; 0.4% of its population); San Francisco Bay Area (11,545; 0.2%); Dallas–Fort Worth metropolitan area (10,500; 0.2%);[4] Sacramento metropolitan area (9,814; 0.4%); Minneapolis – Saint Paul area (8,676; 0.3%); San Diego metropolitan area (8,079; 0.3%); Fresno metropolitan area (7,967; 0.9%); Greater Los Angeles Area (7,120; 0.04%); Nashville metropolitan area (6,210; 0.4%); Portland metropolitan area (5,806; 0.3%); Chicago metropolitan area (4,762; 0.05%); San Joaquin County, California (4,266; 0.6%); Providence, Rhode Island (3,456; 0.2%); Denver metropolitan area (2,673), Des Moines, Iowa (2,270), Anchorage metropolitan area (1,997; 0.5%), and Fort Smith, Arkansas-Arkoma, Oklahoma (1,730).[3][5][6]

Smaller Laotian communities can be found in other cities and metropolitan areas across the United States. In the Southern United States, there is a significant Laotian community in St. Petersburg, Florida, where at least 1,000 Laotian-Americans reside.[3][7] There are communities in Habersham County, Georgia (740), and Houston, Texas.

In the Southwestern and Midwestern United States, there are Laotian communities in Denver, Colorado; Storm Lake, Iowa (400; 4%), and Wichita, Kansas (1,594; 0.4%). The Oaklawn-Sunview community near Wichita is 11.5% Laotian American. In the Chicago area, there are sizable Laotian communities in the suburban cities of Aurora, Elgin, Joliet, and Rockford.[3][8][9]

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Laotian population is concentrated in the cities of Oakland, Richmond, and Santa Rosa.[10] Elsewhere in Northern California, there are Laotian communities in Chico, Eureka, Redding, Stockton, Ukiah and Yuba City. In central and southern California, there are communities in Fresno - also one of the largest Hmong communities outside Laos, Merced, and in Tulare County, California, especially in the city of Porterville. In the 1980s after the communist takeover of Laos, over 10,000 Laotians settled in central California. Many of the Laotians settled in central California to work in the farmland there.[11] Additional Laotian communities exist in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area and in the Inland Empire region (i.e. Banning).

In the Northeast, there are Laotian communities spread across the New England states. With the large concentration in Providence, Rhode Island, Woonsocket, Rhode Island, Lowell, Massachusetts, and Newmarket, New Hampshire.

Community and social issues[edit]


According to data collected by the American government in 2013, 18.5% of all Laotian Americans live under the poverty line.[12]

Per capita income[edit]

In 2014, identified by factfinder census, when Americans' per capita income was divided by ethnic groups Laotian Americans were revealed to have a per capita income of only $21,479 below the American average of $25,825.[13]

Lack of education and school dropout rates[edit]

According to data collected in 2013, 38% of all Laotian Americans dropout of high school.[12]



Laos is 65% Buddhist. Buddhism is the basis and religion practiced in Laos. Lao Buddhism shares similar beliefs with Theravada Buddhism. Lao Buddhism believes in animist beliefs, which is the belief of spiritual essence possessed in objects and creatures. Buddhism located in rural parts of Lao believe in the belief of ancestral spirits, which is the belief of souls and spirits from afterlife. Although Buddhism is the primary religion practiced in Laos, there are some who practice Christianity. There are three Christian churches in Laos: Lao Evangelical Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

Theravada Buddhist Temple[edit]

Laotian-American populations have constructed numerous Buddhist temples, called vat or wat. Usually attendees adapt a house for religious worship. Over time, the congregation donates money to customize and add on to the facility, as well as to add fine artwork and craftsmanship, resulting in a Laotian Buddhist temple that has some traditional features. Examples include Wat Lao Buddhavong located outside Washington, D.C.; Wat Lao Buddharam of San Diego, California; Wat Lao of S. Farmington, Minnesota; Wat Lao Buddhamamakaram of Columbus, Ohio; Wat Lao Mixayaram and Wat Lao Dhammacetiyaram of Seattle, Washington; Wat Lao Buddha Ariyamett Aram Temple in Morris, Connecticut; Wat Lao Lane Xang, founded in 1993 in Willington, Connecticut; Wat Buddhapradeep of San Bruno, California and the Wat Lao Mixayaram in Lowell, Massachusetts. With the growth of Laotian communities in more diverse areas, they have moved to and constructed temples in rural areas, such as Lane Xang Village, located between Lafayette and New Iberia in Louisiana.[14]

Representation in media[edit]

One of the first national Laotian-American publication, Lao Roots Magazine, was published in 2007. The English-language magazine is geared toward the younger generation of the Laotian-American community. Published in San Diego by a small volunteer staff, the magazine has reached widespread national circulation within the Laotian-American community. After the publication ceased, former staff member and Yale University graduate Siamphone Louankang created the popular online magazine,[15] which continues to share stories by and about Americans of Laotian descent.[16]

The documentary film The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) was directed by Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath. It portrays the epic of a family forced to emigrate from Laos after the chaos of the secret air war waged by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Kuras spent 23 years chronicling the family's journey in this film. The film won a Spectrum Award for the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival; it was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary.[17]

The Souphanousinphone family, Laotian Americans, are featured on King of the Hill, an animated TV series.

The subject of Jamie Wyeth's painting Kalounna in Frogtown is Laotian American.

Krysada Binly Phounsiri (Lancer) & Kennedy Phounsiri (EraNetik), brothers from San Diego, California who share the same passion for breakdancing, were featured on season 6 of America's Got Talent with a dance team called the Body Poets and are now current performers in the Jabbawockeez - "MÜS.I.C" Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. They are also part of the breakdance crew "The Calamities", which they created in 2002.


Some Laotian Americans have achieved notable success in badminton competition, including Khan Malaythong.

Notable people[edit]

This is a list of notable Laotian Americans, including both original immigrants who obtained American citizenship and their American descendants.

This list does not include Hmong Americans, who can be found in the List of Hmong Americans.

To be included in this list, the person must have a Wikipedia article showing they are Laotian American or must have references showing they are Laotian American and are notable.

In fiction[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "U.S. Immigrant Population by Country of Birth, 2000-Present" (XLSX). Retrieved February 14, 2017.
  2. ^ "Southeast Asia: Laos, Cambodia, Thailand" (PDF). Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Data Access and Dissemination Systems (DADS). "American FactFinder - Results". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  4. ^ Young, Michael E. Education, opportunities draw Asians to Dallas-Fort Worth, Dallas Morning News, July 4, 2011.
  5. ^ "On The Other Side Of The Eye". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  6. ^ Mark E. Pfeifer, PhD. "Lao American Populations by Metro Area : 2010 Census" (PDF). Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  7. ^ LaPeter, Leonara. Asian concentration upward bound, St. Petersburg Times, April 9, 2001.
  8. ^ Lao American Organization of Elgin, Lao American Organization of Elgin
  9. ^ Ortiz, Vikki. In Elgin, a quiet community is raising its voice, Chicago Tribune, October 1, 2008.
  10. ^ Eaton, Joe; Sullivan, Ron. Taste of Laos in Richmond school garden, San Francisco Chronicle, February 22, 2013.
  11. ^ Laotians top growers of pot on farmland near Fresno, Associated Press via Ventura County Star, February 9, 2013.
  12. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-21. Retrieved 2016-04-04.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Median houseland income in the past 12 months (in 2014 inflation-adjusted dollars)". American Community Survey. United States Census Bureau. 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  14. ^ "Bayou Lotus: Theravada Buddhism in Southwestern Louisiana", Northern Tulane University
  15. ^ "LaoAmericans". Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Annual Lao Educational Conference". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  17. ^ "The Betrayal- Nerakhoon", IMDB
  18. ^ "HOME". Laotian American National Alliance. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  19. ^ "Lao American Navy SEAL John Douangdara to be buried in Arlington - Laotian American Society". Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  20. ^ Tim Gallagher, South Sioux City man among those killed with SEALs in Afghanistan, Sioux City Journal (August 8, 2011).