In recognition of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus have released a new report on economic disparities in the AANHPI community, their contributions to the U.S. economy and the need for more disaggregated data.
Data show Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders were hit hard by the pandemic and the coronavirus recession. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan and other equity-based initiatives focused on providing relief to U.S. workers, families and businesses, many groups in the AANHPI community have fully recovered from the economic crisis. In 2021, the AANHPI poverty rate dropped by nearly 22%.
However, aggregate statistics mask stark economic disparities within the AANHPI community, which is among the most diverse and includes approximately 50 ethnic groups that speak over 100 languages. These disparities contributed to the negative impact the coronavirus pandemic had on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, despite high rates of health insurance coverage. Addressing these inequities will be essential to sustain the ongoing economic recovery and to ensure that it remains broad-based.
Among the report’s key findings:
- Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have the highest level of income inequality of any racial group, ranging from median family incomes that are nearly twice the national median to incomes that are significantly below it.
- Poverty rates vary widely across AANHPI households: The poverty rate is 11% for Asian Americans and 13% for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, but disaggregated data show poverty rates range from 6% for Filipino Americans to 31% for Micronesian Americans not from Guam.
- Aggregate statistics on educational achievement obscure the low rates of college graduation for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders: While 79% of Taiwanese Americans and 75% of Indian American adults have bachelor’s degrees, just 17% of Laotian Americans and 24% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have a four-year college degree.
“Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate the culture and contributions of the AANHPI community to American history, to the U.S. economy and to our shared future,” said JEC Chairman Don Beyer. “But we cannot overlook the ways this community continues to face barriers to economic prosperity—which were magnified by the coronavirus pandemic—and the ways inadequate aggregate data mask stark disparities in income, poverty, education and access to health insurance. The coronavirus pandemic shed new light on the ways in which economic inequality and discrimination compound the disadvantages of many Americans, and these disparities made its impact even worse. The AANHPI community has made a strong economic recovery from the pandemic, thanks to the American Rescue Plan and other economic relief, but there is more to be done. This report, which I’m pleased to release with Representative Chu, Chair of the Congressional Asian and Pacific American Caucus, highlights the work before us. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance policies that promote stronger, stable and more broadly shared growth.”
“This report is incredibly important and will serve as a guide for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), as well as AANHPI communities across the country, as we continue to navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the following economic recession,” said CAPAC Chair, Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27).“It shows the importance of data disaggregation and that there is still work needed to be done to address disparities among AANHPI communities across the nation. I look forward to continuing CAPAC’s work alongside JEC, ensuring we are on the right track trending toward economic recovery and taking steps to mitigate inequities.”