In 2010, approximately 2% of Grand Rapids residents claimed Asian-only descent. The city’s Asian population jumped by 30% over the next decade, with the southeast suburb of Kentwood leading the way: its Asian population increased by 90% from 2010 to 2020, reaching 11% of the municipality’s total population. Kentwood-adjacent Gaines Township saw a 78% increase in its Asian population.

Grand Rapids is the county seat of Kent County, which experienced a 56% jump in its Asian population over the past decade. People of Asian descent now account for about 3% of the Kent County population.

Grand Rapids was one of the first American communities to accept Vietnamese refugees in the mid-‘70s, led by a consortium of area churches. By the 2000 census, only three other Midwest cities had more Vietnamese-American residents than Grand Rapids.

As in most U.S. cities, the first influx of Koreans came to Grand Rapids as wives and children of U.S. military personnel serving in Korea during and after the Korean War. Today, more Koreans come to Grand Rapids through adoption by non-Korean families than come with their birth families.

Few Chinese settlers made their way to West Michigan until 1965, when changes in immigration law made it possible for those with superior skills and education to find employment in our technology-forward companies. Beginning in the 1980s, Chinese-American business owners developed a small "Chinatown" district along south Division Street in Grand Rapids, with shops and services catering to Asian tastes.

Most Asian Indians and Pakistanis also came to Grand Rapids after 1965, when immigration laws were rewritten to emphasize education and skills rather than race. While tension is high between their home countries, Indians and Pakistanis here have bonded as one community.

More recently, the growth of the Asian population of Kentwood has been fueled in part by refugees from Burma, Bhutan and Nepal.

Community Organizations

Annual Events

  • Noodle Fest (March) pits local Asian-owned businesses against each other in a noodle cookoff. Attendees enjoy great fantastic food and live entertainment at this outdoor event, which is part of the city’s annual World of Winter Festival.
  • The Grand Rapids Asian Pacific Festival (June) invites one and all to gather in downtown Grand Rapids for three days of authentic food, music, dancing, games and more.
  • Global Water Fest GR (July) showcases the diverse global cultures that celebrate the beauty and power of water. Highlights include dragon boat racing, a traditional Chinese watercraft activity, as well as international cuisine, art and entertainment.

Points of Interest