Pakistani Americans are the eighth largest Asian American ethnic group after Chinese American, Filipino American, Asian Indian Americans, Vietnamese Americans, Korean Americans, Japanese Americans and Cambodian American communities. They are also the second largest South Asian American ethnic group, after Asian Indian Americans, and have one of the largest Muslim American ethnic groups in the United States, after the African American community.

Pakistan is ranked as the 12th highest source country for immigration into the United States. Compared to other heritage groups in the United States, Pakistani Americans are well educated with an estimated 60% holding a bachelor’s degree or higher professional degrees.

According to the 1990 U.S. Census, there were 81,691 individuals who identified themselves as of Pakistani origin. A U.S Census Bureau American community survey in conducted in 2005 showed that there has been a tremendous growth of the Pakistani American population with an estimated 210,000 (+/- 18,989) persons reporting a Pakistani descent who are currently living in the United States. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005)

The Census Bureau, however, excluded the population living in institutions, college dormitories, and other group quarters from all population groups. The Pakistani embassy estimates the number of people of Pakistani origin living in United States to be much higher, closer to 600,000. (Government of Pakistan, 2004, p. 30)

There are two distinct groups of Pakistani older adults in the United States:

1. Older adults who immigrate to the US

This group consists of the parents or grandparents who immigrated to the US to be reunited with their adult children and to spend their remaining days in the care of their children.

2. Adults who immigrate to the US and live here and become older adults

This group consists of the professionals and their nuclear families who immigrated to this country in the 1950s and 1970s. Their acculturation trajectory is very different from that of the first group as these subjects have often joined the American work force and lived here for many years and may be well acculturated into the American culture.

Given their degree of acculturation, this group’s communication skills, decision-making patterns and clinical adherence patterns are likely to differ significantly from those of the older adults who immigrate to the US, to be reunited with their adult children.

Preferred Cultural Terms

The preferred term for Americans with roots in Pakistan is Pakistani American, regardless of their province of origin in Pakistan.

Currently, an estimated 10% of Pakistani Americans are over the age of 55 and the estimated percentage of older adults (>65 years) is about 4.1 percent.

Between the periods of 1989–1992, an estimated 2,433 elders over the age of 60 years emigrated from Pakistan to the United States. In 2005, it was estimated that there were a total of 9342 Pakistani elders with the elderly men (53.3%) slightly outnumbering the women (46.7). About 95.9 % of the Pakistani elders were foreign-born (Young & Gu, 1995; US Census Bureau, 2005).