PRESS RELEASE: Asian American and Pacific Islander Poverty Grows in Wake of Recession

June 21, 2013
Kevin Sanada
(202) 223-2442

NEW YORK, NY – The National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) unveiled findings from its recent Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Poverty Demographic Study at a press conference held earlier today at the Ford Foundation.

The “Spotlight: Asian American and Pacific Islander Poverty” study brings attention to communities in need and broadens the conversation about what it means to be AAPI in America. The study reveals that the AAPI poor population grew faster than most other ethnic groups from 2007-2011, increasing by 38% to over 2 million. Other key highlights of the study include:

  • AAPI Poverty is Growing Dramatically: From 2007 to 2011, the number of AAPIs living below the federal poverty level increased by more than half a million.
    • This 38% increase can be broken down into a 37% increase for Asian Americans (AAs) in poverty and a 60% increase for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPIs) in poverty.
    • In comparison, the general poverty population grew by 27% during the same time period, with the Hispanic/Latino poverty population growing by 42% and the African American poverty population growing by 20%.
  • The AAPI Poor Population is Concentrated: Over 50% of all AAPI poor live in 10 metropolitan areas (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Honolulu, Seattle, San Jose, Houston, Sacramento, and Philadelphia). No other racial/ethnic poverty population is as concentrated in as few places. Approximately 30% of all AAPI poor live in only 3 metro areas (New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco).
  • AAPI Poor Disproportionately Face High Housing Costs: The 20 highest cost housing markets in the country contain almost half of all AAPI poor. No other racial/ethnic category has as high of a proportion of its poor population in these markets (closest is Hispanic/Latino at 27%).
  • The AAPI Poor Population is Diverse: From 2000 to 2010, the US Census identified AAPI populations in poverty for 22 separate ethnic groups. The largest single group is non-Taiwanese Chinese at almost 450,000, followed by Asian Indian at over 245,000 and Vietnamese at 230,000. Hmong have the highest poverty rate at 27%, followed by Bangladeshi at 21% and Tongans at 19%.

“With this report, policymakers can no longer ignore the growing poverty in our communities,” remarked Congresswoman Judy Chu, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). “Like many Americans struggling through the Great Recession, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been devastated by long term unemployment, high foreclosure rates and downward mobility. As our economy continues to recover, CAPAC is committed to working with our partners in the public, private, and non-profit sectors to ensure that AAPIs are not left behind.”

“The findings of this study reinforce the fact that many AAPIs are suffering in the shadows,” added Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-6), Chair of the CAPAC Economic Development Task Force. “In my district, I see firsthand the many underserved families and individuals who desperately need resources to help them get through these difficult times. More needs to be done by the public, private, and non-profit sectors to come together to better address the growing issue of poverty in the AAPI community.”

Congressman Al Green (TX-9), Chair of the CAPAC Housing Task Force noted, “This study highlights the importance of empowering and investing in all underserved communities, including our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. As a member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I will continue to advocate for issues important to our AAPI communities, so that issues of language access are not impediments to equality of opportunity. I will also work to ensure that all full-time working Americans have access to jobs that pay living wages, which allow them to not only escape poverty but also support their families.”

Ford Foundation Board Chair Irene Hirano Inouye said, “This report confirms that we need more accurate data on the AAPI community, which is too often ignored when it comes to resources and attention from government agencies and philanthropic interests. With the necessary data in hand we can provide fuller pictures of the needs in our diverse communities and the solutions necessary to take on the challenge of poverty in our country.”

“The continual portrayal of AAPIs as the fastest growing, best educated, and wealthiest racial minority group overshadows the growing poverty in our communities,” said Lisa Hasegawa, National CAPACD Executive Director. “We cannot overlook the fact that we are also one of the fastest growing poor populations in our country. We hope that the findings from our study push policymakers and philanthropy to recognize that the faces of poverty include AAPIs and that an economic recovery for our country must reach those in our communities who have been most impacted.”

The findings of the study illustrate not only the challenges our neighborhoods continue to face in the wake of the recession, but also that the economic recovery remains well beyond reach for millions of AAPIs across the country. National CAPACD calls on Congress, the federal government, the business community, and foundations to bring more resources to our neighborhoods, build the capacity of our local community based organizations and develop public-private partnerships that bring greater investments to our communities.

The full report, “Spotlight: Asian American and Pacific Islander Poverty” and additional information is available on theNational CAPACD website. Also find National CAPACD on Twitter and Facebook.



National CAPACD is a national advocacy organization dedicated to addressing the housing, community and economic development needs of diverse and growing AAPI communities. National CAPACD’s member-based network includes more than 100 community-based organizations and individuals, including community development corporations, preservation agencies, community-based social service providers and advocacy agencies. Our members are in 17 states, implementing innovative affordable housing, social service, community development and community organizing strategies to improve the well-being of low-income AAPIs.