Lao in United States

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

Many Laotians came to America as refugees after the Vietnam War. Others left Laos after it became a communist country in 1975. Most American people are unaware that tens of thousands of Laotians died as a result of US bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail that ran through Laos.

A large number of Laotian Americans live in southern California. Others live in the San Francisco Bay Area, in Fort Worth, TX and in the Sacramento and Seattle regions.

Some Laotians have come to the USA in recent decades seeking freedom and a better life for their children.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Even after being in the USA for decades, many Laotian Americans live below the poverty level. Many leave high school before graduating to help support their families. They continue to work menial jobs years after coming to the USA. Adults do not learn more than just the rudiments of English.

American Laotians speak Lao at home and English on the job or at school. Some second and third generation Lao speak English at home and with their family. An online magazine,, gives stories of Laotian Americans who have succeeded in their new land. Some of them have achieved renown in the sport of badminton.

Most Laotians continue in their Buddhist and animistic beliefs. They attend Buddhist temples on a regular basis. Some Laotians have become secular and no long participate in Buddhist rituals, but still celebrate Buddhist holidays as part of their cultural heritage.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Most Lao practice Buddhism, the major world religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha, who lived in the 6th and 5th century BC in ancient India. Their brand of Buddhism is heavily influenced by animism and ancestor veneration.

The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths by which one can gain spiritual knowledge and escape the endless cycles of reincarnation. Theravada, one of the two major branches of Buddhism, declares that by following the Noble Eightfold Path of right intentions and right actions that a Buddhist can achieve nirvana or a state of freedom and salvation.

To most Buddhists, however, these things have far less meaning than their traditional beliefs, which are usually animistic. In animism, evil spirits must be appeased through prayers, sacrifices and rituals. Buddhism allows people to mix Buddhist teachings with folk religion.

Two of the important Buddhist yearly holidays are Vesak, the Buddha's birthday celebrated in May or June and Bodhi Day, the holiday in December or January which commemorates the day that the historical Buddha experienced enlightenment under a Bodhi tree.

What Are Their Needs?

Laotians in the USA need to see the love of Christ demonstrated to them in practical ways. Many would benefit by becoming more proficient in English and in gaining new job skills. Most of all, they must understand their personal sin and their need for the Savior. Christ alone can forgive their sins and grant them eternal life.

Prayer Points

Pray that the Laotians in the USA develop a spiritual hanger for the things of the true God of the Bible.

Pray that believers will reach out and share the good news with the American Laotians.

Pray that the Lao will be moved of God to read the Bible in their heart language.

Pray the Lord raises up a church planting movement among the Lao in the USA in this decade.

Scripture Prayers for the Lao in United States.


Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

Additional Info
Global Prayer Digest: 2016-05-17
Global Prayer Digest: 2020-07-18
Lao profile for Children and Family Missions Activities
People Name General Lao
People Name in Country Lao
Pronunciation lao
Population this Country 214,000
Population all Countries 3,907,000
Total Countries 11
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 1  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed 4
Alternate Names Eastern Thai; Lào; Lao Boc; Lao Noi; Lao Wiang; Lao-Lu; Lao-Noi; Laotian Tai; Laotian Thai; Lum Lao; Phou Lao; Rong Kong; Tai Lao; Ts'un Lao
People ID 12989
ROP3 Code 105643
Country United States
Region America, North and Caribbean
Continent North America
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Country United States
Region America, North and Caribbean
Continent North America
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked

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Primary Language Lao (214,000 speakers)
Language Code lao   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Lao (214,000 speakers)
Language Code lao   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Lao
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Major Religion Percent
60.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.50 %)
4.00 %
Ethnic Religions
33.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
3.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
0.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
30.0 %
Roman Catholic
70.0 %
Photo Source Cambodia Research Network 
Profile Source Joshua Project  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Read more