The Hmong are an ethnic group with origins in southwestern China dating back 3000 years. Other locations with large Hmong populations include Thailand, Burma, Laos and Vietnam. Hmong populations in these nations grew in the 19th century as a result of persecution in China.
During the Vietnam War, many Hmong supported American forces in the fight against Communism in Vietnam and Laos. Following the United States' loss in that war, the Hmong were victims of reprisals. As a result, many fled Laos and, after stays in refugee camps in Thailand, ended up in the United States, France and Australia.
As of the 2000 census, there were approximately 186,000 Hmong in the United States, and the group's population is particularly large in the city of Minneapolis. Wisconsin and Central California are also home to significant numbers of Hmong refugees and their descendants.
The Hmong culture is traditionally agrarian, so members of the original group of refugees often did not have much formal education. The group's agrarian roots also influence its members' tendency to have large families. This lack of education combined with a large family structure have sometimes caused economic difficulty for these immigrants.
The Hmong language is monosyllabic and tonal. Speakers of the language use eight different tones, a number that surpasses that of most other Asian tonal languages.