Asian in America

Why It’s Harder for Asian Americans to Find Jobs

Unemployment rate by race

Unemployment rate by race

from NPR, Asians out of work longer than any other minority.

If Asian Americans had the same unemployment rates by education level as whites,

however, the Asian American unemployment rate would have been 6.3%, almost a percentage point lower.

This is from Economic Policy Institute. If we are stereotypically well educated, hard working, and downright geeky, why is it that Asian Americans have to be more educated in order to get hired? What do you think? The numbers don’t lie.

Here’s Theory 1 for this from NPR: Asian-Americans lack the networks or language skills to find jobs outside their community or industry. And whereas Latinos of different nationalities are bound by a common language, there are about a dozen languages spoken in the Asian-American community.

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Hidden disadvantage: Asian American unemployment and the Great Recession

By Algernon Austin | June 2, 2010

Asian Americans experience a complex mix of advantages and disadvantages in finding employment. Asian Americans in the labor force are advantaged in that a large share of them have bachelor’s and advanced degrees. In contrast, they also have a larger share of workers than whites without high school diplomas.

Asian Americans with bachelor’s degrees only have a higher unemployment rate than whites with bachelor’s degrees. Asian American high school dropouts, however, are more successful than white dropouts at finding work.

These advantages and disadvantages sum to a net disadvantage for Asian American workers. The overall unemployment rate for Asian Americans, 25-years-old and over in the fourth quarter of 2009 was 7.1%. The comparable rate for whites was 7.0%. If Asian Americans had the same unemployment rates by education level as whites, however, the Asian American unemployment rate would have been 6.3%, almost a percentage point lower. Thus, overall, Asian American workers are disadvantaged relative to white workers.

Further research is necessary to deepen our understanding of Asian Americans in the labor force. This analysis raises numerous questions about whether there are significant differences in the occupations and industries of Asian American workers in comparison with white workers that might explain the differences in unemployment rates. Also, it would be informative to examine the labor force participation rates and the relative wages of Asian American and white workers.

While there is still much to understand about Asian Americans in the labor force, the overall disadvantage in employment for Asian Americans is a disturbing finding. It points, once again, to the conclusion that as a society we still have a way to go in guaranteeing equal opportunity for all workers.

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Tags: Asian American unemployment, Asian Americans and jobs

14 Responses to “Why It’s Harder for Asian Americans to Find Jobs”

  1. On June 6, 2012 at 9:18 am admin responded with... #

    Too many premises and hypotheticals in this formulation. “If Asian Americans had the same unemployment rates by education level as whites, however, the Asian American unemployment rate would have been 6.3%, almost a percentage point lower. Thus, overall, Asian American workers are disadvantaged relative to white workers.” Reminds me of the old saying, “If my grandmother had wheels she’d be a wagon.” But note this: “The overall unemployment rate for Asian Americans, 25-years-old and over in the fourth quarter of 2009 was 7.1%. The comparable rate for whites was 7.0%.” I’m not seeing a disadvantage, especially if you compare those unemployment rates to, for example, the unemployment rates for African-Americans and people with disabilities, which are a great deal higher. Education is not the sole route to success.

    Posted by Marc Brenman

    From my LinkedIn Group Diversity – A World of Change

  2. On June 15, 2012 at 10:17 pm admin responded with... #

    You’re not seeing the disadvantage because there are over 40 countries under the Asian American label (e.g. Iranians, Indians, Chinese, Burmese, Sri Lankan, Korean, Vietnamese etc, etc.) The more prosperous and disadvantaged are lumped in together, and guess which pool is greater.

    So, if data is further disaggregated, the unemployment rate becomes even more severe. Education is not the sole route to success, but don’t imply that a diploma is all that these highly educated possess. It means discipline, perseverance, resilience, sacrifice, and more.

    The ladder to success requires mentors and sponsors to advocate and help negotiate politics. And once again, disaggregated data reveals severe shortage of Asian Americans in the top ranks.

    Check out the 2011 Asian Pacific Americans (APA) Corporate Survey from the Asia Society.

    Posted by Taylor Zhou

    From my LinkedIn Group Diversity – A World of Change

  3. On June 15, 2012 at 10:17 pm admin responded with... #

    No, people from the Middle East and India do not come under the Asian label, at least not officially for demographic, Census, etc. purposes in the US. Yes, disadvantages continue to exist for some groups, and sub-groups of some groups, such as some of those newly arrived in the US. But in general, attainment in wealth and education for groups such as Chinese-Americans, Japanese-Americans, and Korean-Americans are very similar to other high-attaining US groups such as Jews and Armenians.

    Posted by Marc Brenman

  4. On June 15, 2012 at 10:17 pm admin responded with... #

    “Asian” definition for 2010 Census: According to OMB, “Asian” refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent… The Asian population includes people who indicated their race(s) as “Asian” or reported entries such as “Asian Indian,” “Chinese,” “Filipino,” “Korean,” “Japanese,” and “Vietnamese” or provided other detailed Asian responses.

    http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-11.pdf

    Posted by Frank Lio

    • On June 15, 2012 at 10:18 pm admin responded with... #

      “Asian” definition for 2010 Census: According to OMB, “Asian” refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent… The Asian population includes people who indicated their race(s) as “Asian” or reported entries such as “Asian Indian,” “Chinese,” “Filipino,” “Korean,” “Japanese,” and “Vietnamese” or provided other detailed Asian responses.

      http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-11.pdf

      Posted by Frank Lio

      • On June 15, 2012 at 10:19 pm admin responded with... #

        You’re not seeing the disadvantage because there are over 40 countries under the Asian American label (e.g. Iranians, Indians, Chinese, Burmese, Sri Lankan, Korean, Vietnamese etc, etc.) The more prosperous and disadvantaged are lumped in together, and guess which pool is greater.

        So, if data is further disaggregated, the unemployment rate becomes even more severe. Education is not the sole route to success, but don’t imply that a diploma is all that these highly educated possess. It means discipline, perseverance, resilience, sacrifice, and more.

        The ladder to success also requires mentors and sponsors to advocate and help negotiate landmines. And once again, disaggregated data reveals severe shortage of Asian Americans in the top ranks.

        Check out the 2011 Asian Pacific Americans (APA) Corporate Survey from the Asia Society.

        Posted by Taylor Z
        From my LinkedIn Group Diversity – A World of Change

    • On June 15, 2012 at 10:19 pm admin responded with... #

      Correct. Asian Indians are the third largest group under the Asian American label. And the few privileged, which every group has, does not measure real equality. The blanket label is a distortion and dis-service to those in need.

      Recently, in New York State, Assemblywoman Grace Meng (the only Asian member of the legislature) introduced bill A9792 to dis-aggregate data on Asian Americans to accurately assess constituent impact, especially during this Great Recession.

      Posted by Taylor Z

    • On June 15, 2012 at 10:20 pm admin responded with... #

      You are correct, Frank. I stand corrected in regard to India. I did not know that OMB had made this change. However, the inclusion of “Asian Indians” (who is that?) would skew statistics for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the US. Other oddnesses of the AAPI category include the inclusion of Filipinos, who alone would be one of the largest groups of AAPIs in the US. Do they self-identify as AAPIs? Do Indians?

      In regard to numbers, I’m not sure who Taylor means by “the few privileged,” but there are large numbers of Chinese-Americans, Japanese-Americans, and Korean-Americans in the US, and they represent a significant percent of all AAPI in the US. How “real equality” gets measured is a matter of some debate.

      In the aggregate (while agreeing that disaggregating is much better), AAPIs in the US are doing quite well, if factors such as family wealth, education, health, incarceration rates, transportation availability, etc. are considered. For example, according to the Pew Center, Asian-American wealth is the second highest of any demographic group in the US. According to the Census, as of 2008, Asian-Americans had the highest educational attainment level and median household income of any racial demographic in the country, and they attained the highest median personal income overall. According to the Dept of Labor, “The median wage of Asian- Americans is higher than other racial groups.” The unemployment rate for AAPIs in 2010 was 7.5%, compared to 8.7% for whites. This is 14% better. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, AAPIs have a low incarceration rate. AAPIs have low rates of many diseases and higher than average life expectancy (for men, six years over whites; for women, 6.5 years over whites). DOL also notes, “Compared published counts of with workers of other races, a lower percentage of fatal work injuries to Asian-American workers resulted from work related trauma, including contact with objects and equipment, and exposure to harmful substances and environments.”

      To measure broad equality, all members of a group should be considered. But things get confused in part because we have vague definitions of the group, of what equality is, and how we will measure it.

      A further complication in discussing the AAPI population in the US is multi-racialism and adoptions. Yet another complication is the uneven geographic distribution of AAPIs in general and that of sub-groups in the US. (Though there appears to be some evening out occurring.) We have one state where the percent of AAPIs is very high (Hawaii), but there social problems exist in hierarchies of power and discrimination. Once again, there is no monolithic group of “AAPIs,” any more than there is a monolithic group of “Latinos.” We assign categories for ease of analysis and discussion. Similarly, advocates should be careful about what “group” they’re advocating for.

      None of this is to say that the condition of AAPIs does not merit thoughtful consideration, only that the picture is a complicated one. If, however, one were to prioritize national special benefits programs on the basis of race and ethnicity, one would want to ensure that those who most need services receive them, and that there be means-testing, so that those who can afford services without government assistance do not receive such services at public expense. One might also suggest that those who have much reach down and assist those who have little.

      Posted by Marc Brenman

    • On June 15, 2012 at 10:20 pm admin responded with... #

      See census.gov link for the Federal definition of Asian. It’s not vague. Inequality is not vague either.

      Asian Indians are Indians from Asia (e.g. Bombay), not native Americans (e.g. the Sioux). The three largest subgroup of AAPIs are not Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

      Posted by Taylor Z

    • On June 15, 2012 at 10:20 pm admin responded with... #

      Taylor, no one said that Indians, in this discussion, are Native Americans. I have no idea where you got that idea. When I asked, “Who is an Asian Indian,” I meant “Is an Asian Indian somehow different from an Indian from India? Because I’ve never met or heard of a person from India call her or himself an Asian Indian.”

      You are correct, I left out Vietnamese-Americans. I’ve been away from this data for too long. For discussion purposes only, I had left out Filipinos and Asian Indians, which I continue to feel do not fit in well with a discussion of “Asians.” I said why I felt the Census definition is vague; in part because Indians and Filipinos are not a good fit; the inclusion feels arbitrary, as if the Census couldn’t fit them anywhere else. No Indian or Filipino I have ever met calls her or himself “Asian.” Even in the Census document, the Census discusses at length how multiracial issues complicate counting. Footnotes even discuss errors in counting.

      As to a definition of inequality, perhaps you have your own definition. I gave a few possible criteria, and could give more. But the definition would still not be very firm. There are physical, social, moral, emotional, psychological, etc. aspects.

      Posted by Marc Brenman

    • On June 15, 2012 at 10:21 pm admin responded with... #

      Let’s use data. Thirteen percent (and growing) of New York City’s population are AAPIs (~1.3 million people). Yet AAPI-led organizations receive only 2% of all City Council Discretionary Funding (this is after an increase from 2011). Nationwide, less than 1% – or 0.3% to be exact – of public or private grants go to AAPIs. The White House Initiative on AAPIs have similarly dismal numbers for services that reach this population.

      Posted by Taylor Z

    • On June 15, 2012 at 10:22 pm admin responded with... #

      A better question is what services are needed by the disaggregated sub-groups, compared to other groups? For example, a very large number of the AAPIs in the NYC metro area are Asian Indian and Chinese-American, two of the wealthier groups in the US population. Many groups can make a very good claim to needing more public and private assistance, based on unmet need.

      Posted by Marc Brenman

    • On June 15, 2012 at 10:22 pm admin responded with... #

      The point is not about the type of services needed (advocates in those communities already know that). It’s about getting sufficient services to those in need.

      Posted by Taylor Z

  5. On June 15, 2012 at 11:40 pm admin responded with... #

    Great! Then examine the chain of causality to determine why those needs exist, find the leverage points, work on getting the services needed by the disaggregated groups and which are identified to be understood by the full range of service providers (including in-group community resources), demonstrate how these needs are greater than those of other groups the providers provide services to and the societal good, convince the service providers to fund or deliver the services, design a service delivery mechanism, deliver the services, evaluate their efficiency and effectiveness, and discontinue those programs that don’t work. Use the data generated by the evaluation to justify doing more of what works.

    Posted by Marc Brenman

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