Public discussion of a new study by the Pew Research Center titled “Twenty to One” has focused on the report’s main finding: that the Great Recession has resulted in record highs in wealth disparity in the U.S., especially among Latinos and blacks in comparison with whites. The report compares the median household assets of the nation’s largest ethnic groups in 2005 and again in 2009, using data from the U.S. Census.

“Twenty to One” also treats the recession’s effect on Asian Americans, which is my focus in this post. They, too, have suffered disproportionate losses as a group, even though they started out ahead. It may surprise many to learn that in 2005, the median household wealth of Asian Americans was greater than that of whites. By 2009, however, after three years of the Great Recession, they had lost their place at the top, having lost 54 percent of their assets. In dollars according to the report, “Their net worth fell from $168,103 in 2005 to $78,066 in 2009.”

What happened? The report gives two partial explanations. First, Asians are geographically concentrated in California and a few other especially hard-hit locations, while whites are more evenly spread across the country. Second, the makeup of Asians as an ethnic group has itself changed; a large number of new immigrants with appreciably lower assets brought down the group as a whole. That latter explanation has been documented. By taking out the newly arrived Asians and re-computing the data, then the household wealth of the remaining Asian American dropped only 31 percent, not 54 percent. But even smaller number that substantiates the major finding that minorities have suffered disproportionately from the recession. After all, the revised figure (31 percent) of loss by Asian Americans is still nearly twice that of white households (16 percent).

One other finding that pertains to all four ethnic groups indicates the depth of the growing disparity gap in household wealth. The study found that within each ethnic/racial group it studied, the wealth gap also grew. In other words, disparities have increased among Hispanics themselves, among blacks themselves and among Asians themselves, as well as between each and all of these minorities when compared with whites.

 

 

Comments

Anonymous | 8/9/2011 - 5:06pm
What baffles me from my friendship with Vietnamese who arrived in 1980 as boat people and are now upper middle class folk.... and from my own ancestors' experience as dirt poor Irish immigrants actively discriminated against by their Masonic and WASPY neighbors for a hundred years but managed by the 1930s to rise into the middle class on their own despite a hundred disadvantages....

is how we Catholics have come to assume that future ethnic minorities (like blacks and hispanics) are doomed forever unless the benevolence of the government "balance the field" and we urge them to trade their family and faith for political/ideological pressure groups who "alone" can save them from us racist suburbanites and "alone" can assure their economic security.

Now, why is this so? Why do so many of us Irish Catholics assume that the urban poor, the other ethnic minorities among us are simply incapable of rising without government support or subsidy but we know Asians and our own ancestors who made it not only without such subsidy but in the teeth of active social persecution - all thanks to a strong faith life, community life built on the Church and family traditions of helping one another?

I find this attitude incredibly racist and short sighted. It literally kills these groups with kindness - or apparent kindness in that it gets them addicted to easy money such that they never have to build the muscles of self-reliance or civil engagement as equals not "chip on the shoulder victims".

Anonymous | 8/9/2011 - 12:43pm
There was a discussion earlier this year on immigration.  The number one group of naturalized citizens each year is from Mexico.  I do not remember the exact pecking order but I believe the next three were Indian, Filipino and Vietnamese.  All are generally well educated people but not what we traditionally think of when we say Asian Americans. I stil believe the Chinese are the largest Asian ethnic group in the country but this percentage is changing.


A lot of people are out of work or have little work.  The hardest hit have been the uneducated and especially the Black community.  This is who is being hurt by the social engineering that is meant to help them.  It ends up hurting them instead.
ed gleason | 8/9/2011 - 5:42pm
John Lyons, you echo Ronald Reagan's talk when he morphed from a Union President Dem to GOP spokeperson.
"I came from the lower Irish drinking classes and look how with good looks and Irish charm I worked my way into the best Republican country clubs. If I can do this why can't the welfare queens without good looks and Irish charm do it too.'
ed gleason | 8/9/2011 - 1:13pm
I live in a 70% Asian, single family house neighborhood in San Francisco. Most Asians including many Koreans have their own businesses. SF  home prices did not drop very much in the housing cession and projected foreclosures did not happen. hence the 31% revised #.
The suburbs housing did decline more, as did the LA area. Asian family resilience  during economic hard times is amazing to witness.