One question that I explored in working on my dissertation was the age structure of the ABC population. Since turning in my final draft, I have finally figured out how to use the U.S. Census Data Ferret to get the information that I wanted. The graph below shows the number of ABCs for each year of age in the 2000 census. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

ABC Age Structure

ABC Age Structure This confirms earlier observations that the ABC population is quite young. As of the 2000 census, 50% were under 15 years old, and 75% were under 30. Only 16% were over 40, which helps to explain the young average age of the English congregation in most Chinese churches.

There are two notable change points in the graph. One is around age 50, which would have been those born in 1950 at the end of WW II. At that time Chinese American GIs returned from the war, and a increasing number of Chinese were admitted into the U.S. Those aged 35 and younger were born after the Immigration Act of 1965, which greatly increased the flow of immigration. The ABC baby boom that started around 1965 continues to this day.

The correlation between the immigration rate and the ABC birth rate suggests that most of this surge of new ABCs had immigrant parents. This is confirmed by one statistic that I found which stated that in 1995 91% of ABC births were to immigrant mothers.

Implications for English Ministry

These data raise important issues for English Ministry in U.S. Chinese churches.

  1. If we are serious about reaching ABCs, we need to have strong children’s and youth ministries. Furthermore, since most of these young ABCs have immigrant parents, bilingual Chinese churches are probably the best place to reach them. It is essential to have a strong, mature English Ministry (EM) not only to care for the children of church members but also to reach the unchurched majority of young ABCs. The majority of Christians come to faith or are impacted with the gospel as children or teenagers, so is critical that we reach this group.
  2. Many 2nd generation ABCs are now reaching their 20s and 30s. In the eight years since the 2000 census, the bars on the graph above will have shifted to the right. How can we reach this growing group of adult ABCs? What new ministries must be developed to reach them? What will be the role of Chinese churches?
  3. The leading edge of the ABC baby boom has now reached their 30’s. As they begin to raise their own families it will create a new wave of 3rd generation ABCs. How will we reach them, and what role will the Chinese church play in this task?

Join the Conversation


  1. hi Pastor Ken!
    I know you’re son, Daniel, from Compass.

    I was wondering…you’re statistics are for ABCs. You even pointed out in your presentation that 2nd wave Chinese consider themselves Asian Americans vs ABCs. Do you have statistics for age distribution for Asian Americans as a whole? I would love to see that and mull over the implications for Asian American churches today…

  2. Hi Nat, thanks for stopping by. I glad that you know Daniel.

    It would be possible to extract the age distribution for Asian Americans from the census data, but it requires a certain amount of work and I have not done that yet. I might dig into the census data again when the results of the 2010 census become available on line.

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