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Asian Americans now have the highest income gap in the United States

Photo by David Muñoz.

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

Income inequality in the United States is the largest and has increased the fastest for Asian Americans, a study from the Pew Research Center has found.

The study found that from 1970 to 2016, the income gap between the highest and lowest-earning Asian Americans widened 27 percent. In 1970, the highest earning Asians had 6.1 times the income as the lowest earning. That number increased to 10.7 times in 2016.

Income inequality has increased across all racial groups in this period, with the highest earners making more money, while low-income wages stagnate over time. The effect, however, is most pronounced for Asian Americans, who have now replaced the black community as the most economically divided racial group in the country.

The Pew study traces this growing inequality to an increase in Asian American immigration. While this has resulted in an increase in Asian immigrants filling higher and lower-skilled jobs in the U.S., the increase of lower-income Asians coming to the United States has been more pronounced.

Advocacy groups pointed to the model minority myth as exacerbating this income inequality. “I think there’s an overall ignorance of low-income AAPIs,” said Josh Ishimatsu, the director of Research and Capacity Building at the National Coalition for Asian-Pacific American Community Development. “So there’s not the resources being dedicated to offer services to these populations.”

The Pew Study also found that income and educational levels vary widely among Asian ethnic groups. For example, median income for Indian Americans is $100,000, while median income for Bhutanese Americans was $36,000. In a press release, National CAPACD called for the disaggregation of data by ethnicity.

An Asian Americans Advancing Justice report from earlier this year found significant percentages of poverty among Asian Americans in the San Gabriel Valley. Seventeen percent of Vietnamese Americans, 14 percent of Chinese Americans and 13 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders live below the poverty line.

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