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New Surveys of Asian Americans Show Persistent Racism and Hardship

Research released for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month reveals that anti-Asian sentiment has not abated with the end of the pandemic, and safety is a top concern.

Bloomberg- US Edition

By Amy Yee

New surveys of Asian Americans are revealing the anti-Asian racism that surged during the Covid pandemic is not going away, and advocacy groups are using the data to push for social and policy changes.

The research from groups including the Asian American Foundation, Columbia University’s School of Social Work, the Association of Asian American Investment Managers and Pew Research signals a shift for Asian Americans, the fastest-growing racial group in the US. Historically, there has been a lack of data on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) related to everything from poverty and crime to health and workplace retention, leaving the population out of critical policy and funding decisions.

In New York, AAPI advocates say city spending is failing to meet the needs of its growing population and wants $19 million for services such as anti domestic-violence initiatives, youth programs, and adult and digital literacy. On Wednesday, advocates from the 18% & Growing Campaign will rally at Queens Borough Hall, the second in a citywide series of demonstrations in May — AAPI Heritage month — to demand more government funding. The campaign represents 90 organizations serving the city’s AAPIs.

Until recently there were few surveys focused on AAPIs, or sample sizes of AAPIs were too small in studies. Few big surveys on AAPIs were multilingual, which naturally excluded limited English speakers who tend to be low-income and marginalized. Data on low-income people are generally difficult to collect, but especially so for AAPIs because of language, cultural and immigration status barriers.

Yet inequities and signs of discrimination also pervade white-collar settings, including the financial industry. A report released on Tuesday from the Association of Asian American Investment Managers shows that AAPIs in private equity, hedge funds, real estate and public equity face challenges reaching senior levels. The report highlights the problem of the “model minority” myth, which stereotypes AAPIs as thriving and therefore not in need of support.

“While ‘model minorities’ are characterized as diligent, it is thought that they lack the strong persona to make effective leaders; as a result, AAPIs are often excluded from opportunities for advancement,” according to the report. It also pointed out that until recently there has been a lack of evidence about hurdles because AAPI demographic data is rarely collected, DEI initiatives tend to overlook AAPI workers, and if AAPIs are included, their data is aggregated with other groups, which masks nuances.

Here is some of the latest research:

The State of Chinese Americans Survey

Columbia University’s School of Social Work and Committee of 100, a Chinese American nonprofit, surveyed nearly 6,500 participants across the US in the first and largest survey of Chinese Americans. The State of Chinese Americans survey was conducted in English and traditional and simplified Chinese.

Researchers also worked with more than 100 community organizations that serve AAPIs to complete surveys. “This innovative approach, which allowed us to survey local and hard-to-reach communities, enabled us to obtain a large, diverse national sample,” said Dr. Qin Gao, professor at Columbia and lead researcher.

Key findings:

  • Almost three out of four (74%) of Chinese Americans experienced racial discrimination in the past 12 months.

  • 55% worried about their safety relating to hate crimes or harassment.

  • One in five reported that people made a racial slur, called them a name, or harassed them in person or online at least a few times in the past 12 months.

  • 24% reported either fair or poor physical or mental health, or having one or more types of disability.

  • 10% reported a household income below $15,000, and 9% reported experiencing food or bills hardship in the past 12 months.

The findings bring “a critical and deeper understanding of the real experiences of Chinese Americans, not the stereotypical assumptions assigned to a ‘model minority’ group,” said Gary Locke, former US Commerce Secretary and chair for the Committee of 100.

Asian Americans gather in Times Square in New York City on March 16, 2023.

Photographer: Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


The Asian American Foundation (TAAF) on May 2 unveiled results of the STAATUS index, its third annual study of AAPIs and attitudes toward them. The index surveyed 5,235 respondents in the US through an online panel. TAAF was launched in 2021 by Li Lu, chair of hedge fund Himalaya Capital, in response to the surge of anti-Asian hate during the pandemic. Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang; Joseph Bae, co-chief executive officer of private equity firm KKR & Co.; and others are board members. Key findings:

  • One in two Asian Americans felt unsafe in the US.

  • 52% of Asian American respondents felt uncomfortable or unsafe due to their race and ethnicity.

  • 29% of Asian Americans felt the least safe on public transportation, followed by 19% in their own neighborhood and school, and 17% in workplaces and local markets.

  • Nearly one-third of Americans saw Asian Americans as more loyal to their perceived country of origin.

  • Almost 80% of Asian Americans didn’t fully feel they belong and are accepted.

Pew Research: Asian American Identities

Pew Research on May 8 released a survey of 7,006 Asian adults in the US, the largest nationally representative survey of its kind to date. It was offered online and on paper in six languages: Chinese (simplified and traditional), English, Hindi, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

The survey is part of a multiyear research effort on the nation’s Asian population. Other Pew studies of AAPIs have focused on rising income inequality, violence and discrimination against Asian Americans. Key findings:

  • Only 24% say they are extremely/very informed about Asian American history.

  • One in five say they have hidden a part of their heritage (their ethnic food, cultural practices, ethnic clothing, or religious practices) from others who are not Asian, in some cases out of fear of embarrassment or discrimination.

Study on Investment Management Career Attrition

In 2021, the nonprofit Association of Asian American Investment Managers (AAAI) began releasing surveys of AAPIs in finance that revealed career hurdles, especially for women. AAAIM’s latest study analyzed information for more than 20,000 employees at the top 100 firms in private equity, hedge funds, real estate and public equity.

Until AAAIM’s initial survey, “Not all DEI reports included AAPIs and those that did aggregate AAPIs with other groups,” said Brenda Chia, co-chair of AAAIM. “This is an industry of numbers, let's put the numbers on the table and have open and constructive dialogue.”

Key findings:

  • There is a 50% attrition rate from entry level to senior level positions among AAPIs.

  • Mutual funds firms show the highest level of overall AAPI attrition between entry-level and senior-level positions. Nearly one-fifth of junior positions are held by AAPIs, but less than 8% of senior executives are AAPIs — an attrition rate of over 55%.

  • Private equity tends to have the highest overall AAPI representation across seniority levels, however its attrition rate is nearly 50% between junior levels (where AAPIs comprise almost a quarter of the worker population) to the most senior.

One female respondent noted, “The most impactful career advancement age feels like it was around my 30s and 40s, and that’s when the discriminatory actions seemed more evident. First to get cut, last to get promoted, assigned more responsibilities for less pay.”

New York’s 18% Campaign

In New York, AAPIs made up nearly 18% of the city’s population in 2020 and are its fastest-growing racial or ethnic group. “Yet our communities rarely receive the funding and support they need to thrive,” said Felicia Singh, director of policy at Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF), which is leading an advocacy campaign this month.

Even lesser known is that about 23% of Asian New Yorkers live in poverty. For the first time in 2022, the Robin Hood Foundationfeatured Asians in its fourth annual report on poverty in New York City. Surveys, some conducted in Mandarin, found that the poverty rates for Asian New Yorkers were comparable to rates among Black and Latino New Yorkers.

In New York, city contract dollars for AAPI organizations amounted to just 3.1% of funding from city agencies to social services providers over 13 years, according to a 2015 report. And in 2022, AAPI-serving organizations only received 4.46% of City Council discretionary dollars, said CACF.

The rallies being held this month come after Mayor Eric Adams in late April unveiled the city’s 2024 budget. The 18% coalition is protesting funding cuts for departments that serve AAPIs, especially in light of spiking anti-Asian racism during the Covid-19 pandemic. Hardship among AAPI communities, from senior citizens to small business owners, also increased. “The AAPI community continues to be underserved while the city continues to look to and lean on AAPI [organizations] like Sapna to fill these gaps,” said Diya Basu-Sen, executive director of Sapna NYC, a Bronx nonprofit that serves South Asian women and is part of the 18% coalition. “We get referrals almost every week from [hospitals] and so many others looking for culturally competent, linguistically accessible mental health services, domestic violence support, in-language resources, interpretation, and so much more.”

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