According to a new study by the Urban Institute, the wealth gap among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics has continued to increase. Before the recession, White families, on average, were about four times wealthier than non-White families, according to Federal Reserve data. By 2010, White families were about six times as wealthy. The most recent data shows the average White family has about $632,000 in wealth, versus $98,000 for Black families and $110,000 for Hispanic families. But what about Asian families?
Last I checked, there are 4.3 billion Asians in the world, making up 62% of the world’s population. What’s surprising is that only around 5% of the American population is Asian. If there’s only 16 million people to sell to out of a country population of 310 million, no wonder why nobody really cares about Asians. Money talks!
When you grow up attending international schools, living in the Spanish house in college and working in Manhattan and San Francisco, it’s very hard to accept a world where there isn’t much diversity. 33% of San Francisco’s population is Asian for example. This post will attempt to understand why Asians consistently get ignored by researchers, politicians, and the media. I’ll also offer solutions as to how Asian Americans can gain more coverage.
WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE CARE ABOUT ASIANS?
1) The media does not understand. We tend to write about what we know and who we know. If there is an underrepresentation of Asians in journalism, a profession most recently voted as the worst occupation in America, then is it any wonder why the media doesn’t write about Asian issues? How is a non-Asian supposed to understand the cultural differences if they’ve never been to Asia, don’t speak an Asian language, and have hardly any Asian friends? They can’t, so we can’t blame the media for their ignorance.
2) Politicians are blind. To make money, all you had to do was look at Mitt Romney’s crowd of supporters during election night and bet he would lose the election. There’s hardly any diversity with his supporters, even though the American population continuously becomes more diverse. Whatever your political preference, it’s pretty clear that if Republican candidates can’t connect with the majority of Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, they will never win again. A full 78% of non-white voters supported President Obama.
3) Misery and suffering. The media loves to focus on the suffering of others. Every time a bubble bursts you will read scores of stories about how so and so lost their fortune. If you are an overrepresented minority in higher education that ultimately earns higher than average or median incomes, then you’re no fun. Misery loves company. When your industry has shrunk by 60% in the past 10 years and the median pay is only about $36,000 a year, relative success stories do not interest you.
4) Asians are less vocal. It’s hard to think of any Asian Jesse Jacksons in America. Nor are there any massive protest movements by Asians in America except for when Abercrombie & Fitch puts out racist t-shirts. Asian culture is relatively more reserved when they are a minority. Asians in Asia are an entirely different story. When the majority do not hear about a minority’s problems, then it’s as if there are no problems at all.
5) Asians have a strong culture of saving money. The national savings rate in China and India are 38% and 35%, respectively according to OECD and World Bank. Compare such levels with the savings rates in the US at 3.9%, Australia at 2.5%, and Britain at 7% and there is really no comparison. If you save money you are more free to do whatever you want. When you do what you want, there is less crime, more stability, and greater happiness. There aren’t as many problems for politicians, think tanks, and researchers to try and “fix.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT EDUCATION
The most interesting statistic is the level of educational attainment in the Asian community. According to the US Census Bureau in 2010, while the high school graduation rate for Asian Americans is on par with those of other ethnic groups, 50% of Asian Americans have attained at least a bachelor’s degree compared with the national average of 28%. Meanwhile, a whopping 71% of Indians have bachelors degree. When I got my MBA at Berkeley part-time, half of my class were Indian, and all of them had GMAT scores of over 720 out of 800. They were in the top 1% of the top 1%.
Asians make up around 21% of a Harvard class, while Asians dominate the campuses of UC Berkeley and UCLA with around a 50% representation. Given Asians only make up 5% of the American population, it’s clear they are an overrepresented minority in higher education. If you’re Asian, best of luck getting into a top university. You’re going to need it.
FINDING A VOICE FOR THE INVISIBLE RACE
In order to have a larger voice in America, a greater portion of the world’s 4.3 billion Asians needs to migrate to America. There has to be faster procreation growth for Asians who already live in America as there is no strength in small numbers. The majority will always rule the world and if you only comprise 5% of American’s population you aren’t going to get any respect from anyone. By the year 2060, the Census Bureau estimates the Hispanic population will double to 31% of the total population. Asians need to start getting busy as the Asian population is expected to only grow to 8% of the total population.
Those Asians in leadership positions must do what every single race before them has done, and that is to take care of their own. Go to any organization whose leader went to X school and is from Y country. If you have a new manager who is from Tunisia and went to Chico State, I guarantee you that in a couple years you’ll suddenly have a lot more Tunisians and Chico State grads in the mix! The same can be said for female managers who hire female employees and vice versa. Favoritism is alive and well.
It’s interesting that Asians are largely ignored in the media because of some belief that all Asians are smart, hard working, have stable households, and therefore never need much help. The most famous Asian American story in recent memory is Amy Chua and her “Tiger Mom” ways of getting her daughters into Ivy League schools. Believe it or not, there are Asian people who don’t do well in school, come from broken households, and need extra help due to various disadvantages.
I’m all for more equality among everybody. But consistently ignoring the Asian race is an increase in socioeconomic inequality. If we can’t effectively create income equality by perfectly redistributing wealth, then at least we must strive for socioeconomic equality where all races are treated the same and have the same voice. I argue there should be massive focus on how the Asian population has been able to overcome common immigration hurdles and dominate some of America’s best universities and occupations and apply the findings to other minority groups who are falling behind.
Any Asian readers out there who feel they are an invisible minority in America? Why do you think the media, politicians, and research institutes ignore Asians so much? Is the secret to greater wealth and prosperity simply more education? If so, why isn’t there more a focus on Asian culture instead?
Official definition of Asian: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam. It includes people who indicate their race as “Asian Indian,” “Chinese,” “Filipino,” “Korean,” “Japanese,” “Vietnamese,” and “Other Asian” or provide other detailed Asian responses.
The full PDF of the Urban Institute’s report can be found here.
Updated for 2017 and beyond.