AAPI Nexus: Special Issue on Wealth Inequality and AAPIs

Abstracts for “Special Issue on Wealth Inequality and AAPIs”
Volume 13, Number 1-2, Fall 2015

Reframing the Asian American Wealth Narrative: An Examination of the Racial Wealth Gap in the National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color Survey

By Melany De La Cruz-Viesca, Darrick Hamilton, and William A. Darity Jr.

Abstract:  The National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color (NASCC) survey was developed to supplement existing national data sets that collect data on household wealth in the United States, but rarely collect data that is disaggregated by specific national origin. This paper begins with an examination of the importance of differentiating wealth and income, followed by a second section summarizing the methodology, and a third part analyzing the wealth position of various communities of color. For the first time, we are able to demonstrate differences in wealth across multiple Asian ethnic groups. The NASCC findings reveal that major disparities in wealth accumulation exist across certain racial and ethnic groups.

Financial Distress among Pacific Islanders in Southern California

By Sora Park Tanjasiri, Lois Takahashi, and Lola Sablan-Santos

Abstract:  Pacific Islanders experience enduring and growing poverty in the United States, yet our understanding of their financial distress and needs is limited. Financial institutions, government agencies, and community based organizations in areas with large Pacific Islander communities need better information with which to develop tailored programs, improve outreach and education, and improve economic security for these and other underserved populations. This paper describes the results from a unique in-language survey that asked detailed questions regarding the financial knowledge, status, and needs of Pacific Islanders, including poverty and wealth questions beyond those in the Census, in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties of Southern California.

Scrimping + Saving: A Report on Financial Access, Attitudes, and Behaviors of Low- and Moderate-Income Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

By Joyce Pisnanont, Jane Duong, Alvina Condon, Melany De La Cruz-Viesca, Chhandara Pech, and Paul M. Ong

Abstract:  Scrimping + Saving documents the complexity of financial health within the diverse and growing Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, detailing the influence of factors such as generational status, ethnicity, age, and technological familiarity. The findings and recommendations from this research are critical to asset-building practitioners serving AAPI communities, as well as to financial institutions and policy makers. In particular, the findings serve a critical role in articulating the need for further investment in culturally competent education and services, and capitalizing on models that enhance social networks as a vehicle for building individual and community financial capability.

Increasing Youth Financial Capability: A Subsample Analysis of Asian American and Pacific Islander Participants in the MyPath Savings Initiative

By Vernon Loke and Laura Choi

Abstract:  This article examines the impact of the MyPath Savings pilot on 274economically disadvantaged youth participating in a youth development and employment program in San Francisco, California, with a subsample analysis of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) participants. My-Path Savings targets youth earning their first paycheck to promote savings and connect youth with mainstream financial products. AAPI youth experienced significant increases in financial knowledge, financial self efficacy, and the frequency with which positive financial behaviors were carried out. AAPI participants also saved an average of $566 through My-Path Savings. Gains in financial capability were mostly independent of the youths’ race, gender, household income, and public benefits receipt.

Race and Class through the Lens of Asian American and Pacific Islander Experiences:  Perspectives from Community College Students

By Robert T. Teranishi, Cynthia M. Alcantar, and Bach Mai Dolly Nguyen

Abstract:  While the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population is one of the fastest-growing college student populations, there is very little known about their situated experiences within community colleges, which is the sector of higher education where they are mostly likely to be enrolled. Community colleges are a particularly important sector in higher education for low-income AAPI students who are the first in their families to attend college. This study describes the financial vulnerability of low-income AAPI students, how their financial circumstances intersect with other aspects of their lived experiences, and how students describe the choices they make to navigate competing demands in their lives.

Are Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Age Fifty and over Financially Secure?

By Daphne Kwok and Ryann Tanap

Abstract:  This article presents the work of AARP and the economic security of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community fifty years and older. The authors recognize the lack of existing AAPI data, but with the results from a recent AARP study the article lends a nuanced perspective of economic security for two specific ethnic groups:  Chinese Americans and Filipino Americans. The use of AARP’s survey fills a gap in existing data sets. With this study, it’s evident that AAPIs are not all economically secure, and more disaggregated data is needed to further understand their current state of finances, and needs and wants, in order to contribute to a higher quality of life for aging AAPIs.

Diversity and Disparity in Home Equity among Asian Americans

By Chhandara Pech, Jenny Chhea, and Paul M. Ong

Abstract:  This article uses data from the American Housing Survey to examine Asian American wealth through home equity, which is the most important asset held by many households. We also analyze ethnic variations in housing assets and the impact of the Great Recession on subgroups. Our analysis finds that non-Hispanic whites had greater equity than Asian Americans after adjusting for geographic differences; Chinese-born Asians have the highest and Philippine-born and Southeast Asians have the lowest home equity within ethnic variations; and the recession impacted all Asian subgroups, but affected Philippine-born Asians the most.

Risks and Rewards in Wealth Building: Asian American Homeownership and Foreclosure Pre and Post Housing Boom in East San Gabriel Valley, California

By R. Varisa Patraporn, Linda Diem Tran, and Paul M. Ong

Abstract:  While much research exists on African Americans and Latinos after the housing crisis in 2007, much less is known about the Asian American experience particularly as it relates to foreclosure and housing burden. This study takes a quantitative case study approach examining Asian Americans in one region of Los Angeles County. Utilizing data from the Census, Home Mortgage Foreclosure Data, and Data-Quick, we provide a more comprehensive picture of the Asian American housing experience before, during and after the housing boom in 2005.  Findings show that Asian Americans’ decline in homeownership could not be explained by foreclosure. In fact, Asian Americans may have avoided foreclosure in this region using higher down payments, avoiding subprime loans, and loans with variable interest. A potential cost of these actions is higher housing burden, which is closely related to default and foreclosure. Thus, policymakers and community leaders should continue to monitor Asian American homeownership as the impact of the housing collapse may be delayed for Asian Americans compared to other racial groups.

Painting the Whole Picture:  Foreclosure Rates among Asian American Ethnic Groups in Orlando, Florida, and Phoenix, Arizona

By Jacob S. Rugh

Abstract:  This article contributes to the literature on the stratification of Asian American homeowners by systematically measuring the foreclosure rates of multiple Asian American ethnic groups, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, and other racial groups in Orlando, Florida, and Phoenix, Arizona. Using novel data and methods, Korean and Vietnamese homeowners are estimated to experience foreclosure rates as high as those of blacks and Latinos, disparities hitherto obscured by more modest foreclosure rates among Asian American borrowers overall. The results suggest greater attention should be paid to the recent Sunbelt settlement of Korean and Vietnamese Americans to better understand why they were devastated by the housing crisis.

Are U.S.-Chartered Chinese and Korean Banks Resilient in the Face of New Challenges? Evidence from Los Angeles and New York

By Michela Zonta

Abstract:  This study discusses the empirical evidence regarding the direction of Asian American banks’ evolution in light of the recent financial crisis and other challenges associated with the increasing competition from large mainstream financial institutions in ethnic niche markets. Specifically, the study focuses on the evolution of Chinese and Korean banking and its role in Asian neighborhoods during the past decade in Los Angeles and New York, the two U.S. metropolitan areas with the largest concentrations of Asian population and Asian-owned banks. Findings indicate that Asian banks have been able to sustain their presence and activities in coethnic communities in the face of the challenges associated with increasing competitive environments and the volatility of the financial market.

Loss in Translation: Housing Counseling Agency Segmentation in the Twin Cities

By C. Aujean Lee

Abstract:  Housing counseling agencies (HCAs) in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area have served as important resources for homeowners at risk of foreclosure. However, Asian American–serving HCAs have experienced increased segmentation in the nonprofit sector and also among HCAs because of language assistance. Using interviews with foreclosure counselors, this study finds that HCAs that provide Asian-language assistance experience similar challenges as other HCAs, but are also at a disadvantage in resources and capacity compared to other HCAs. The study has implications for how to better serve immigrant homeowners with language needs, particularly because they require more time and resources.

Turning the U.S. Tax Code from Upside Down to Right-Side Up Can Close the Racial Wealth Gap

By Jeremie Greer, Jane Duong, and Ezra Levin

Abstract:  Over the past twenty years, the federal government has spentmore than $8 trillion through the tax code to help households save, invest, and build wealth. However, an overwhelming majority of this tax spending has gone to the wealthiest Americans who hardly need the support to build more wealth. Since 1994, the federal government’s massive spending on asset building has more than doubled, and there are no signs of it slowing down. This upside-down tax system perpetuates the widespread wealth inequality we are seeing in this country, and it exacerbates the racial wealth gap that is holding back so many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and other households of color. This paper will (1) illustrate how the tax code plays a role in widening the racial wealth gap for AAPIs and other communities of color, (2) explain how current asset-building tax programs are missing an opportunity to boost the wealth of low-income AAPIs and other communities of color, and (3) propose legislative action to create a more equitable and progressive tax code for all.

The Critical Moments of Immigrant Integration: A Research Brief of the Impact of Financial Education, Coaching, and Traditional Lending Models in Immigrant Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities

By Joyce Pisnanont, Jane Duong, Imtiaz Hossain, Ben Lau, Lucy Pyeatt, and Hee Joo Yoon

Abstract:  This paper highlights the findings of a multicity pilot project that the National Coalition of Asian Pacific American Community Development implemented in partnership with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)–serving community-based organizations in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Houston. This partnership with all four organizations represents the largest lending-circle pilot project to date in the AAPI community. Over the course of one year, we tested a program model that integrated financial education training and individualized coaching with immigrant integration services such as English as a Second Language, citizenship classes, parenting classes, and workforce readiness. Clients were also offered an opportunity to access Lending CirclesSM, a peer-lending financial product, as a vehicle for helping to improve savings habits while also building credit. This essay will discuss recommendations for replication by other community-based organizations and practitioners.

Sapna NYC: Participatory Research, Cooperative Economic Strategies with South Asian Immigrant Women in the Bronx, and the Possibilities for South/Asian America

By Parag Rajendra Khandhar and Moumita Zaman

Abstract:  After the onset of the Great Recession that began in 2008, many social progressives and others disenchanted with unregulated corporate capitalism have been significantly interested in exploring workplace democracy through worker-owned cooperatives and other tools. This article focuses on one nonprofit organization—Sapna NYC—that works with South Asian American women in the Bronx. The article will discuss the agency’s adaptive and evolving work that recognizes the holistic health impacts of socioeconomic status and has come up with a novel approach to support participants in building worker-owned cooperative businesses that they own and control. This article will discuss the intended health, economic, and social impacts of the project, as well as the challenges, opportunities, questions, and implications of the agency’s worker cooperative incubation program for South/Asian American communities and community organizations throughout the United States. The article suggests how Sapna NYC’s experience is instructive for organizations developing or considering incubation of their own co-ops.

Can Data Disaggregation Resolve Blind Spots in Policy Making? Examining a Case for Native Hawaiians

By Mitchell J. Chang, Mike Hoa Nguyen and Kapua L. Chandler

Abstract:  This study addressed whether or not the increasing reliance on data-driven decision making stands to improve policy efforts to address challenges faced by Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. In doing this, this study examined those who identified as Native Hawaiian in the U.S. Census data and further disaggregated this sample by ancestry and geographic location to test whether there are variations within this population across socioeconomic indicators. The findings suggest that while further data disaggregation can sharpen policy making to address patterns of socioeconomic inequalities, disaggregation alone is still insufficient for fully capturing the complexity of human experiences that reinforce those disparities.

Asian Americans Rise Up: The Response to the Pew Report on The Rise of Asian Americans

By Paul Y. Watanabe

Abstract:  In 2012, the Pew Research Center issued a much-anticipated report: The Rise of Asian Americans. Census data and an original survey of Asian Americans were analyzed focusing on what Pew described as “milestones of economic success and social assimilation” (Pew Research Center, 2012b, 1) The mainstream media, taking their cues from Pew, generally accepted uncritically the portrait of success and assimilation—what a Pew executive vice president dubbed as the “good news” about Asian Americans. In contrast, with remarkable speed and unity, diverse sectors of the Asian American community—academics, activists, journalists, organizations, politicians, and so forth—rose up to an unprecedented extent to criticize aspects of the Pew report. Their objections centered to a modest degree on the substance and methodology of the report. The bulk of the criticism was on Pew’s framing of the data. In presenting the data, Pew employed a tiresome and discredited model minority characterization accompanied by a troubling comparison of immigrants from Asia with Latino immigrants. In effect, the former were identified as “good” immigrants and the later as “bad.” The Asian American response, however, was not limited to protest alone. In a constructive manner, several Asian Americans coupled their complaints with constructive ideas about improving the collection, analysis, and dissemination of much-needed data and research about Asian Americans. Included in these recommendations were calls for Asian Americans to be included in serious and meaningful ways in the research process from beginning to end.