Press Release AAPI Unions

Diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander Workforce Faces Many Challenges

July 25, 2011

Contact: Karen Conner, (202) 293-5380 x117Mail_Outline

July 25, 2011

For immediate release: July 25, 2011
Contact: Alan Barber, 202-293-5380 x115

Washington, D.C. – Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) workers face significant challenges in the labor market, according to a new report prepared by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Center for Labor Research and Education at UCLA.

“This report provides essential information on the Asian Pacific Islander workforce that is useful for labor and community organizations, scholars and students, and policy makers and government leaders.  The research reflects the complexity and diversity of the API workforce, and challenges the stereotypes that are perpetuated by the model minority myth,” said Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center and an author of the report.

The report, “Diversity and Change: Asian American and Pacific Islander Workers 2011,” reviews over 50 years of government data and provides the most in-depth picture to date of the AAPI workforce in the United States.

The study portrays a highly diverse workforce. About three-fourths of AAPI workers were born outside of the United States, but a high share have become U.S. citizens. AAPI workers are more likely than whites to have a four-year college degree or more, but AAPI workers are also less likely than whites to have a high school diploma.

AAPI women workers are concentrated both in typically high-paying occupations in health, finance, and computer-related fields, as well as typically poorly-paying occupations, such as cashiers, cleaners, and wait staff. AAPI men are also concentrated in many of these same high-paying occupations, but also in low-paying occupations including cooks, truck drivers, and janitors.

According to the report, AAPI workers are less likely than whites to be self-employed. In 2010, 6.6 percent of white workers were self-employed, compared to only 5.6 percent of AAPI workers. A larger share of AAPI workers are in unions (about 12 percent) and in public-sector jobs (about 14 percent) than are self-employed.

Despite having a higher-than-average level of education, AAPI workers face important economic challenges. AAPI workers are less likely than whites to have health insurance and the share of AAPI workers with employer-provided health insurance has dropped sharply over the last two decades, in step with national trends.

AAPI workers are also substantially less likely than white workers to own their home. In 2009, less than two-thirds of AAPI workers (64.4 percent) owned their home, compared to almost three-fourths of white workers (74.3 percent).

A sizeable minority of AAPI workers also have difficulties with English. About 1-in-6 AAPI workers lives in a household that is “linguistically isolated.” According to the standard used by the Bureau of the Census, a household is linguistically isolated if all of the adult members of the household speak English less than “very well.”

“Like the rest of the workforce, AAPI workers face significant challenges including high unemployment and declining access to health insurance,” Nicole Woo, Director of Domestic Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and another author of the report added. “But AAPI workers also face some unique challenges. Three fourths, for example, are immigrants and about 1-in-6 has language difficulties.”

Some additional findings of the report include:

  • AAPI workers are the only one of the four major racial and ethnic groups in which more men have a four-year college degree than women
  • Earnings of AAPI workers are more unequal than they are for white, black, and Latino workers.
  • Over the past two decades earnings inequality increased more among AAPI workers than it did among white workers
  • AAPIs between the ages of 16 and 64 are less likely to have a job (68.0 percent) than whites (70.5 percent) in the same age range.

More information on the state of the AAPI workforce in the United States can be found here.

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