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The Hmong are a fairly tight-knit group; many community leaders are old clan leaders or politicians from Laos and are their descendents and relatives.For instance, the Hmong general Vang Pao, who commanded the Hmong forces fighting against the Communist North Vietnamese, remains a political leader for many Hmong in America.These reasons led to a massive shift of the Hmong population in the mid-to- late 1980s to central California cities like Fresno, Stockton, and Merced, and to a lesser extent, to Minnesota and Wisconsin.
A 2002 community directory provides listings of 13 Hmong community organizations and 39 Hmong religious congregations in the Minneapolis-St. Whereas many Hmong in California's Central Valley have taken up their old occupations of farming, those in Minneapolis have found jobs working in factories.
Around 6 percent of the Hmong now live in the South (with most in North and South Carolina), an impressive increase from just 1.3 percent in 1990. The opportunity to make a better life seems to be at the heart of things.
In 2000, the Hmong population numbered in the Northeastern states remained very small, at just 2 percent. "The cost of living is cheaper here than in California," Lee Pao Xiong, president of the Urban Coalition in St. "The quality of education is better here, and jobs are available here." Xiong said he's recruited 10 families from his own extended family to come here from California in recent years.
Many agree, however, that the figure is probably a significant undercount.
During the 1990s, the Hmong moved again: away from the West and towards the Midwest and the South.