Economic Success Correlates With English Language Ability
by Fernando Quintero
A recent UC study has produced the most comprehensive snapshot to date of Asian-Americans living in the West, home to more than half of the nation's Asian population.
Using sophisticated statistical tools to mine the riches of U.S. Census data, the 200-page study filled with graphs, tables and maps shows how Asian-Americans cover the full spectrum of social and economic conditions.
The study identifies the various groups, shows where they live and work, their income and poverty status, household size, education, electoral participation, and the types and scopes of their economic enterprises.
Levels of household income, unemployment and percent in poverty are compared across Asian ethnicities as well as such other factors as English proficiency.
Among the pictures that emerge is a portrait of economic success that is more highly correlated with English language ability than citizenship or date of immigration, say the study's co-authors at UC's Pacific Rim Research Program.
For most Americans, the demographic and cultural diversity of Asian-Americans remains hidden, say the authors, with Asian-Americans frequently stereotyped as "model minorities" who overachieve in education and business.
But the large disparities between Asian ethnic groups revealed in the new study pose important questions about the aggregated categorization of Asian-Americans, such as in census gathering and affirmative action policies.
Among the data found in the study:
* In California, the average annual per capita income for Laotians is $4,254, while Filipinos earn an average $22,079 per year.
* Throughout the Pacific Rim states, nearly one in four Vietnamese lives below the poverty line. For Japanese, it's one in 16.
* More than 60 percent of Asian-Indians have a college degree, while fewer than 10 percent of Cambodians do.
* In California, where the number of Asian-Americans has doubled to more than 10 percent since 1980, the largest Asian groups in order of population size are Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Koreans. The Bay Area ranks second behind Los Angeles in the number of Asians.
The study provides the most detailed and up-to-date information available on the demographic and social characteristics of the 3.5 million Asians and Asian-Americans living in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii.
According to the study, sponsored by the Pacific Rim Research Program in conjunction with the Berkeley-based UC Data Archive and Technical Assistance, the social and economic differences among Asian- Americans reflect the variety of their immigration histories and community structures.
The study was conducted by J. Eric Oliver, a doctoral candidate in Political Science at Berkeley, under the supervision of Henry Brady, political science professor and director of the UCDATA; Frederic C. Gey, assistant director of UCDATA, and Jon Stiles, a doctoral student in sociology at Berkeley.