Poverty rises among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders according to study

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are one of the fastest-growing populations in the United States. 

However, the numbers for AAPIs in poverty have grown by 37 percent, while Pacific Islanders in poverty have increased by 60 percent.  Taking a look inside the numbers reveals the diversity within the ethnicities of AAPIs
A recent Center for American Progress study reveals that many AAPIs that fall within the poverty category are refugees without much education.  The data shows that Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotian Americans are among the ethnic groups that experience the most poverty.  Due to their limited education, there are limited opportunities and room for advancement, which reflects “relatively high levels of poverty and low levels of household income.”  Conversely, Indian and Filipino Americans show higher levels of employment based on their work-based visas.  Both groups within the AAPI category have household incomes higher than the national average.

According to the study which held data from 2008 to 2012, the median household income for Asian Americans averaged about $72,000, while the national median household income was $53,000.  The average for whites was $56,000.

Median household income for Pacific Islanders was $55,000.

The study also finds that AAPIs have larger households than the national average with an average of 3.02 for Asian Americans and 3.63 for Pacific Islanders.  The national average is 2.58 persons.  Based on this information, AAPIs have more individuals within their household to take care of and thus resources are stretched more than smaller households.

Also, a fact which may contribute to the higher numbers of poverty, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are more likely to live in states and cities with higher costs of living.  Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, and California are the top four states in which AAPIs reside.

The AAPI poverty numbers have surpassed the U.S. national average of 27 percent.  With the increase in poverty among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, 58 percent of the net increase comes from native-born Americans rather than immigrants.

The study reveals interesting information on ethnic groups when it comes to poverty.  In 2010, Chinese Americans and Asian Indian Americans comprised the two ethnic groups with the most people in poverty.  However, the numbers may be deceiving considering the high number of Chinese Americans and Asian Indian Americans in the United States.  The highest concentrations of poverty among AAPIs are the ethnic groups with the smallest representation in the total U.S. population.  The highest rates of poverty among Asian Americans were Hmong Americans and Bangladeshi Americans.

Between 2006 and 2010, the poverty rate for Hmong Americans was 27 percent (i.e., 27 percent of Hmong Americans in the United States are in poverty) and 21.1 percent for Bangladeshi Americans, according to the study.

Among the Pacific Islanders, the highest poverty rates are Tongan Americans (18.9 percent) and Samoan Americans (16.2 percent).

Pacific Islanders are the most concentrated group in poverty next to Asian Americans.  New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago are the top cities in which AAPIs in poverty reside. AAPIs living in poverty predominantly live in some of the most expensive housing markets across the nation.  As one might conclude, poor AAPIs live in diverse multicultural neighborhoods with no single population as the majority.  In addition, most AAPIs that are poor live in neighborhoods where the majority of residents are people of color.

The study by the Center for American Progress was provided in conjunction with AAPI Data, a project at the University of California, Riverside.  The study on poverty is one of a series of reports on the state of AAPI communities. (end)

Jason Cruz can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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