The household income of Indian American family on an average is USD 120,000 (over ₹87 lakhs) per annum, surpassing all ethnic groups and white Americans as well, according to a report released by the Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development.
But almost 7 percent of Indian Americans live at or below the federal poverty line, defined in 2018 — the year for which the report drew its data — as $12,490 for a single person, and $25, 750 for a family of four. Low-income Indian American immigrants had feared the Trump-era’s version of the public charge rule, which would deny permanent residency to those who have availed of federal public benefits, such as food stamps, housing assistance and a myriad of other benefits.
Indian Americans and Filipino Americans have the lowest poverty rates among all ethnic groups, and White Americans. Fifty-seven percent of Indian Americans own their homes, while 26 percent are renters. Data shows that some groups, like Indian households, are earning remarkably high incomes (USD 119,858), others, like Burmese households, are earning incomes (USD 45,348) comparable to those earned by Black (USD 41,511) and Latinx (USD 51,404) households.
Nepalese and Bangladeshi American households have an annual income of about $46,000, while Pakistani Americans come closer to the AAPI average, with household incomes of $79,000 per year. Eighteen percent of Bangladeshi American households fall below the federal poverty line, while 16 percent of Pakistani Americans are low-income.
But prosperity does not cut equally among all AAPI ethnicities, including other South Asian American subgroups. While the mean household income for all AAPI ethnicities is $82,000 annually, Burmese Americans earn just half of that at $42,000 per year.
Burmese Americans have the highest level of poverty in the nation, surpassing Black and LatinX households, according to CAPACD — an Oakland, California-based organization that works with low-income AAPI families.
As a whole, 11 percent of Asian American households are at or below the federal poverty level. By comparison, almost 24 percent of Black and Native American households, and 18 percent of LatinX households are low-income.
Poverty levels for White Americans is below 10 percent; they also represent the highest percentage of homeowners — almost 80 percent — according to the CAPACD report.
Because of modern immigration policy, immigrants are more likely to be wealthy and educated when they immigrate to the U.S., stated the report. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 has favored higher education or professional class skills or those who have family in the U.S. As of 2012, 61 percent of Asian immigrants have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the overall U.S. population, in which only one-third have graduated from college or university.
Asian Americans have also gobbled up the majority of employment-based visas, which contributes to a higher earning capacity.
But the authors of the report — Cy Watsky, Josh Isimatsu, Arika Harrison, and Emanuel Nieves — stated that the myth of the model minority masks the severe economic, education, and employment disparities within the AAPI community. People from Asia are clubbed into one ethnic category, which disallows an examination of diverse backgrounds, said the researchers.
“Ultimately, while the Asian American category allows for political solidarity and power for many, when we examine the economic indicators for the AAPI community, it becomes clear that the aggregated data does not come close to telling the full story of these diverse communities,” wrote the researchers.
The U.S. Census does not provide disaggregated wealth data, which is important in understanding the long-term financial security for AAPI households, stated CAPACD in a press release.
“The aggregation limits the conversation around Asian American wealth and financial security. In fact, many AAPI communities are not as economically prosperous as the stereotype of the community would otherwise suggest. These individuals have unrecognized economic needs, which can be best addressed through policies informed specifically by the diverse experiences of AAPI communities,” stated the organization, advocating for disaggregated data for the AAPI community.
(Picture: The Mill Chronicle)