A variety of definitions and geographical data are presented by organizations and individuals for classifying the ethnic groups in Asia.
In parts of anglophone Africa, especially East Africa and in parts of the Caribbean, the term "Asian" is more commonly associated with people of South Asian origin, particularly Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans. In South Africa the term Asian is used in the pan-continental sense. Due to the high number of Indians in South Africa, in official documentation the designation "Indian" is used to refer to both South- and East-Asians. [better source needed]
The Australian Census includes Central Asia. The Australian Census includes four regions of Asia in its official definition. Defined by the 2006–2011 Australian Census, three broad groups have the word Asian included in their name: Central and Southern Asian, South-East Asian and North-East Asian. Russians are classified as Southern and Eastern Europeans while Middle Easterners are classified as North African and Middle Easterners.
The Canadian Census uses the term 'Asian' pan-continentally and the list of visible minorities includes "West Asian", "South Asian", "Central Asian" and "Southeast Asian". The Canadian government uses "West Asian" in its statistics; however people from the Arab countries of Western Asia are counted in a separate "Arab" category.
New Zealand's census undertaken by Statistics New Zealand defines the Asian to include people of Chinese, Indian, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, Cambodian and Thai ancestries. In less formal contexts, the term Asian often does not include South Asian people.
In the United Kingdom, the term "Asian" is more commonly associated with people of South Asian origin, particularly Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans. The UK usage of the term "Asian" is reflected in the "ethnic group" section of UK census forms, which treat "Asian" and "Chinese" as separate (see British Asian). Most respondents to the UK 2001 Census of non-Chinese East Asian and Southeast Asian descent chose to write-in their ethnicity in the "Other Ethnic Group" category rather than the "Other Asian" category, reflecting the association of the word Asian in the UK with South Asian. Despite there being a strong presence of East Asians in the United Kingdom there are considerably more South Asians, for example the 2001 Census recorded 1.05 million people of Indian origin and 247,000 of Chinese origin in the UK. Peter J. Aspinall of the Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, recommends privileging the term "South Asian" over the term "Asian", since the term "Asian" is a "contested term".
In 1968, an Asian activist conference decided on favoring the name "Asian American" over the competing terms: "yellow", "Mongoloid", "Asiatic" and "Oriental", since the Filipinos at the meeting thought they were "brown" rather than "yellow" and the conference thought the term "Oriental" was Eurocentric, since they originate from lands "east" only from Europe's standpoint and, since the term "Oriental" suggested to them "passivity".
Earlier Census forms from 1980 and prior listed particular Asian ancestries as separate groups along with White and Black or Negro. Previously, Asian Americans were classified as "other". But the 1980 Census marked the first general analyses of Asians as a group, combining several individual ancestry groups into "Asian or Pacific Islander." By the 1990 Census, Asian or Pacific Islander (API) was included as an explicit category, although respondents had to select one particular ancestry.
The 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census Bureau definition of the Asian race is: "people having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent (for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam)".
In 1930 and 1940, Indian Americans were identified as a separate race, Hindu, and in 1950 and 1960 they were racially classified as Other Race, and then in 1970 they were classified as White. Since 1980, Indians and all other South Asians have been classified as part of the Asian ethnic group. Sociologist Madhulika Khandelwal described how "....as a result of activism, South Asians came to be included as 'Asians' in the census only in the 80's. Prior to that many South Asians had been checking 'Caucasian' or 'Other'."
Respondents can also report their specific ancestry, e.g.: Okinawan, etc. Someone reporting these ancestries but no race would be classified as "Asian". Unlike South Asians, Jewish Americans, Israeli Americans, Arab Americans, Armenian Americans, Assyrian Americans, Kurdish Americans, Georgian Americans, Chechen Americans, Turkish Americans, Azerbaijani Americans, Iranian Americans and Central Asian Americans have not lobbied to be included as Asians by the U.S. Census Board.
In normal American usage Asian does not refer to the people from the Pacific Islands who are usually called Pacific Islanders. The term "Asians and Pacific Islanders" or "Asia/Pacific" was used on the 1990 US Census. However, in the 2000 US Census, the Asian or Pacific Islander category was separated into two categories, "Asian" and "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander".
In the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, the term "Asian" generally refers to people of South Asian and Southeast Asian descent due to the large Indian, Pakistani and Filipino expatriate population in these countries. However, there are instances where the term is used solely to refer to those of South Asian descent.
A 2009 book about forensic anthropology said that the "leading handbook in human osteology" has kept on using the "traditional terms"' of "caucasoid, mongoloid, negroid", but "one of the most popular recent forensic anthropology textbooks" has changed to the "more current, politically correct terminology of Asian, white, black, Native American".
Eugénia Maria Guedes Pinto Antunes da Cunha of the Department of Anthropology, University of Coimbra, Portugal, said there has been a modern trend in "most of the forensic anthropology literature" to "rename" the term "Mongoloid", a term in which she includes the "North American Indian", with the term "Asian" or "Asiatic". Antunes da Cunha said that, even though the "terminology" has changed, the "underlying assumptions are the same".
Karen T. Taylor forensic art professor at the FBI Academy, Quantico, Virginia, said that the term "Asian-derived" is a modern-day euphemism for the "Mongoloid race" and it includes "Native Americans" and "various Asian groups".
In 2007, Kyung-Ran Jung et al. (Korean:전경란) of the Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of Ulsan, Seoul, South Korea used the term "Asian populations" for the group he also referred to as the "Asian-Mongoloid" in which he included Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Thai for a meta-analysis of alleles in relation to rheumatoid arthritis.
Masniari Novita of the Biomedical Department of Jember University, Jember, Indonesia, said "Asiatics" are part of the "Mongoloid" race while "Asians from the Indian Subcontinent" are part of the "Caucasian" race.
Matt Cartmill of the Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University, United States, said "geography has little to do with the race concept in its actual application", since "Asian individuals [can be] born in the same geographical region" as other races.
Michael Bamshad et al. of the Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah, found that "107 sub-Saharan African, 67 East Asian and 81 Western European" individuals genetically clustered with "ancestry from a single population" at levels of "almost 100%", but among "263 individuals from South India" the "proportion of ancestry shared with Europeans and Asians varies widely".
Sandra Soo-Jin Lee (Korean:이수진) of the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology at Stanford University, United States of America, said that the reasoning behind "Asian" being a "race" as defined by the US Census is "difficult to determine" because it includes "South Asians".
A writing style guide published in 2011 by two professors at universities in the United States of America recommends using the term "Asian" to refer to people living in Asian countries such as "China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, etc." unless a given situation makes using a more specific nationality term more appropriate than using the broader term "Asian".
In a 2014 article about Asian rhinoplasty, in an academic journal about plastic surgery, Clyde H. Ishii, the article's author, said, "Although many countries use the term 'Asian' referring to people living on that continent, in reality, Asian usually refers to peoples of East, Southeast, and South Asia. Inhabitants of Southwest Asia, such as Arabs and Iranians, are more commonly designated Middle Easterners.3 The term Asian as used in this article refers to people from Asia who have a Mongoloid background (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Indonesians, and others)."
The Native Hawaiians presented compelling arguments that the standards must facilitate the production of data to describe their social and economic situation and to monitor discrimination against Native Hawaiians in housing, education, employment, and other areas. Under the current standards for data on race and ethnicity, Native Hawaiians comprise about three percent of the Asian and Pacific Islander population. By creating separate categories, the data on the Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islander groups will no longer be overwhelmed by the aggregate data of the much larger Asian groups. Native Hawaiians will comprise about 60 percent of the new category. The Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander population groups are well defined; moreover, there has been experience with reporting in separate categories for the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population groups. The 1990 census included "Hawaiian," "Samoan," and "Guamanian" as response categories to the race question. In addition, two of the major tests conducted as part of the current review (the NCS and the RAETT) used "Hawaiian" and/or "Native Hawaiian," "Samoan," "Guamanian," and "Guamanian or Chamorro" as response options to the race question. These factors facilitate breaking apart the current category.