Location, education propel Asian income growth in US

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December 10, 2020 2:44 PM

By the same measure, location and job markets also played a role in the stagnant income growth for Black-led households, with large numbers geographically clustered in the South, economists said.

Nationwide, median household income grew 2.3 per cent from the 2005-2009 period to the 2015-2019 period.

Asian American households saw the biggest income growth of any racial or ethnic group in the United States over the past decade and a half – almost 8 per cent, according to figures released Thursday by the US Census Bureau.

Household income for Latinos grew by nearly 6 per cent over that time, while households led by non-Hispanic whites and Blacks had comparatively stagnant income growth – 3 per cent and almost 2 per cent respectively – over the past decade and a half.

Nationwide, median household income grew 2.3 per cent from the 2005-2009 period to the 2015-2019 period, according to the latest 5-year American Community Survey.

Economists said a lot of the difference in income growth among racial and ethnic groups has to do with the thriving job markets where Asian American and Latino-led households are concentrated – cities and communities in the West and Southwest.

“As the labour market tightened more in certain areas and in certain fields we would see more robust income growth for those groups,” Ohio State economist Trevon Logan said in an email.

“Also, higher concentration in urban areas with larger job growth and increases in minimum wage can also play a role in income gains.”

While income growth has been comparatively flat in a vast majority of US counties, it has been concentrated in a handful of communities, said William Spriggs, an economist at Howard University.

“So, I suspect recent Asian and Latino immigration has been to these high growth areas,” Spriggs said.

Education also played an important role, said Marlene Kim, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Boston. More than 54 per cent of Asian Americans had a bachelor’s degree, the highest of any racial or ethnic group, compared to 32 per cent overall for U.S. residents, according to the 2015-2019 American Community Survey.

By comparison, 35.8 per cent of non-Hispanic whites, 21.6 per cent of Blacks and 16.4 per cent of Latinos had bachelor’s degrees.

“We are in a knowledge economy and a college education is key to getting professional jobs that pay well. Asians have the highest percentage of getting a college degree and I think you are seeing that effect,” Kim said. “Asians are more likely to be in professional and technical jobs, which are thriving and increasing their pay and income level.”

But there are wide differences among Asian Americans – a diverse racial category that include Americans with roots in China, India, the Philippines and other Asian nations.

Americans of Indian origin had higher rates of college education than those of Cambodian and Hmong origin, according to a report last year from the Pew Research Center.

By the same measure, location and job markets also played a role in the stagnant income growth for Black-led households, with large numbers geographically clustered in the South, economists said.

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