Asian Indians in seven San Francisco Bay Area counties have a median family income of $88,540—24 percent higher than the total population and the highest of any Asian group—but there are severe pockets of poverty in the South Asian community in the region.
These are two highlights in Asian Outlook, a new report issued by the San Francisco-based Asian Pacific Fund, an organization that connects donors to needs in the Asian American community.
The report offers the first detailed look at age, income and employment data from Census 2000 for the various Asian American populations in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin and Solano counties.
“Contrary to popular belief, many Asians are struggling to support themselves and their families,” said Cora M. Tellez, chairman of the Asian Pacific Fund board of directors. “Disputing the widely regarded notion that all Asians are faring well, the facts are especially troubling given the Bay Area’s stagnant economy and the high unemployment rates among Asians.”
For example, the report said that 20,744 of the 143,932 South Asians sampled in the Bay Area, those for whom data was available, live in poverty, a rate of 14.4 percent. (Some South Asian groups could not be included in the income data—Bangladeshis in all the Bay Area counties except Alameda and Santa Clara, for example—because they did not meet the population threshold of 100 families in a given geographical area).
Cambodians, with a median family income of $39,167 (45 percent less than the total population) and Laotians with $45,833 (-36 percent), had the lowest family incomes among Asian populations. Hmongs in the Bay Area had a poverty rate of 96.4 percent, followed by Cambodians at 54.5 percent and Laotians, 49.9 percent.
Koreans and Chinese had poverty rates of 23.8 percent and 21.1 percent, respectively, while those for Japanese and Filipinos were 13 percent and 12 percent.
“Asian Indians, Vietnamese, Koreans, and Filipinos have extremely low incomes when there is no employed worker. The income for these groups, when there is no employed family member, ranges from $9000 to $15,000, in some cases half to nearly one-fourth of the general population figures,” the report said.
“These are likely families ineligible for income assistance or who are eligible but do not want to apply. They may also be new immigrants who have not worked long enough to qualify for social security.”
Regarding per capita income, Japanese had the highest at $38,451, reflecting the fact that they were in an earlier immigration wave. Japanese also have the highest percentage of elderly at 8.1 percent, compared to 5.3 percent for the general population.
Asian Indians were second among Asians in per capita income at $35,370, followed by Chinese ($28,743), Pakistani ($25,862) and Korean $25,608). “The number of Asians in the Bay Area is larger than previously reported, representing 23 percent of the total Bay Area population. Previous Census figures did not include Asians mixed with another race,” the Asian Pacific Fund said.
“Our report shows that there are an additional 120,473 Asians mixed with one other race living in the Bay Area. This new figure, up from 21 percent, more accurately represents the Asian population growth.”
The number of elderly Asians (75+ years old) more than doubled in size during that same period, from 25,204 to 50,476. About 1.2 percent of the South Asian population are 75+.
From 1990 to 2000, the number of Asian children (0-18 years old) grew at a rate of 23.4 percent, compared to 14.9 percent in the general population.
Asian unemployment in California doubled in the last seven years, while unemployment declined in the general population in the same period by 4.7 percent. “It is important to target specific Asian ethnic groups in need,” said Gail Kong, executive director of the Asian Pacific Fund. “We want other foundations and community or government agencies to take heed as well, refocusing their resources and committing themselves to helping these populations.”
For more information, visit www.asianpacificfund.org.