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Asian Americans Have Highest Poverty Rate In Nyc


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Asian-Americans Have Highest Poverty Rate In NYC, But Stereotypes Make The Issue Invisible
“The model minority myth chooses to highlight the successful immigrant examples and brush aside the high rates of poverty,” one expert says.
By Kimberly Yam

Asian-Americans are often thought of as doctors. Bankers. Success stories. While those examples exist, Asian-Americans are by no means monolithic. There’s a whole other side to the minority group that goes undiscussed.

There’s the elderly retired Chinatown restaurant worker who has limited savings and must share an apartment with several other people. There’s the Cambodian refugee dealing with the trauma from living in a war-torn country and trying to start over in the Bronx with limited English. And there are many others who have yet to see their American dreams come true.

In fact, there are more Asian-Americans living in poverty in New York City than any other minority group. Their stories, however, are rarely told.

Recently, dispelling the model minority myth has become a major issue as Asian-Americans from disadvantaged communities become more vocal about how their experiences differ from the stereotyped narratives the public hears so often.

Nonprofits are calling for disaggregated data, publishing their own research and reaching out to help disadvantaged Asian-American communities. They say the belief that Asians are successful across the board hurts the community and keeps funding from those in need.

Disadvantaged Asian-Americans’ needs are seldom addressed, and experts say the model minority myth is partially to blame. Because of the frequently perpetuated stereotype that Asian-Americans are successful, the realities of poor Asian-Americans get ignored, Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the social services nonprofit Asian American Federation, told HuffPost.

“The model minority myth chooses to highlight the successful immigrant examples and brush aside the high rates of poverty,” Yoo explained. “The myth assumes that we somehow have the capacity to work ourselves out of poverty without any help.”

More than one-quarter of Asian-Americans live in poverty in New York City. An estimated 26.6 percent live below the city’s poverty threshold in 2014 ― an increase from the year before, the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity reported.

The circumstances of poor Asian-Americans are diverse. Asian-American seniors are the most financially vulnerable of the group, with almost 1 in 4 living in poverty, a report from the Asian American Federation noted. Those from refugee communities, including Cambodians and Vietnamese, also experience higher rates of poverty. Recent immigrants, including Bangladeshi-Americans, have high poverty rates as well, Yoo said. And many of those in need are not proficient in English.

Perhaps most surprising is that Asian-American poverty rates remain higher than those of other groups despite the group’s higher levels of educational attainment, a Social Indicators Report from the Mayor’s Office of Operations mentioned.

Research and news coverage have helped paint an incomplete picture of Asians in America. Stories like Nicholas Kristof’s piece “The Asian Advantage,” proclaiming the success of Asian-Americans, continue to be circulated. (The New York Times ended up receiving swift backlash for ignoring the narratives of Asian subgroups who, on average, are not faring well.) And many other well-respected organizations are just as guilty.

Research often treats Asian-Americans as monolithic and ignores the diversity of their experiences. People from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are more likely to struggle than people from China or India, notes Christian E. Weller, a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress who co-penned an eye-opening report on Asian-American wealth disparity. But lumping all Asian-Americans together for research purposes fails to show this.

Stories of wealthy, privileged Asians aren’t doing the community any favors. Yoo mentioned that they have actually harmed people in need by overshadowing their stories and masking a need to allocate resources to them.

Despite their poverty rate, Asian-Americans aren’t receiving many resources in New York City. From 2002 to 2014 ― a 13 year period ― they received 1.4 percent of the city’s social service funds.

That’s why Yoo’s organization has been highlighting the struggles of Asian-Americans in need, she told HuffPost. In addition to serving as an incubator for several growing Asian-American organizations, it conducts research on topics like Asian-American poverty ― an area that’s often neglected in poverty studies.

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I came across this article on Reddit but what interested me were some of the responses:

I don't know about the rest of you, but articles like this particularly strike a nerve with me as an Asian person. It shows the extent of how we are dehumanized to just a bunch of stereotypes and have our thoughts and voices largely ignored. This is why I believe we have it worse than blacks and other POCS. Because at least they're given platforms in this country and don't have bull*** narratives defining them as much (i.e. most people have more of a three-dimensional view of blacks. Asians, not so much)

Affirmative action is helping some POC (white females the most), but SEA students are being grouped with EA students despite coming from generally way poorer backgrounds, meaning they have to beat EA students' numbers while coming from black students' backgrounds. Yay!

Man, I could go on and on and on.

Although Asian Americans are historically a minority group that receive little aid despite the highest rates of poverty, I want to urge other Asian Americans to NOT place blame on the Latino and African American community. I've seen it too often with my uncles and aunties. All minorities must involve ourselves in other minority issues to achieve true equality - we, as Asians, can't settle being second on the totem poll in terms of racial privilege (we must all strive to be on the same level).

A bit of history - when Italian and Irish immigrants came to America in the early 20th century, they were paid more than African Americans despite doing the same work. The reasoning was to segregate the lower class to avoid disruption of the upper class (the factor owners). Same **** in the seventies and eighties - the "model minority" myth was used as a sword against Black and Latino Americans during the crack era in NY. That type of discrimination is used to justify zoning laws, gentrification, and displacement. It's pressure to assimilate.

The lack of aid for Asian immigrants is the fault of the government and the silence of our political voices and political prowess. It is NOT the African or Latino community causing our problems. As a matter of fact, we NEED them in our fight for equality and justice.

Like, [it] was infuriating with the Peter Liang case - where we learned that we weren't white the hard way lol. We shouldn't be expecting privilege - we should be expecting justice for the murders caused by the other police officers.

I’m an asian amaerican in NYC and I totally disagree with you. We need to look out for our own bc no one else will/is and we shouldn’t expect them to nor should they expect us too. Sadly, other PoCs “expect” us to - they can go pound salt unless there’s equal reciprocity as far as I’m concerned

one of the reasons that people don't understand how much poverty there is amongst asians in nyc is that you see a lot of homeless people begging for money in nyc, but you NEVER see asians beg for money.

homeless asians will go through trash cans and find plastic and glass bottles to recycle.

usually, you see black people begging for money. often, the black people begging are wearing clean clothes and don't even look homeless. i bet a lot of them aren't even homeless. i think a lot of black people are just lazy. :rolleyes:

you see some whites and hispanics begging, too, in nyc.

if you ride the subways, you will see people begging all the time.

the homeless asians never beg, and they don't let themselves get disgusting like homeless people of other races, like you might see a homeless black guy who smells like piss or a homeless white guy with bug bites all over his skin on the subway, but the homeless asian guy will smell fine and be carrying a huge bag of plastic bottles on the subway (this is actually kinda ironic, because some of the asian homeless people look more tidy than the fobs, who might not even bother to comb their hair.)

so since the homeless asians never beg, the public doesn't perceive as much of an asian need for help


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Whoa..the comments. Racist in the last comment. 3rd comment "gets it".

I agree that Japanese/Chinese Asians should be separate from Southeast Asians (Cambodians, Vietnamese, etc). Many Vietnamese do well in South US. Unsure of up north but down here they rule the Nail Salon and Spa businesses. And many East Asians look down on South East Asians and anyone else with Darker skin. Asians are def not a monolith.


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When you look around areas of Queens and lower Manhattan, I can see it.

This is something they have to address. If they stop trying to be honorary white and align with others that have similar issues they'd find more support. However this isn't an issue I care to make my own.

I'll be honest I see this as Asians trying to pull a "poor me" to gain attention. I understand why, but they have way too many advantages for me to take up this mantle.

They need to join together and stop separating based on country, it's the same issue affecting Latinos and I'm starting to see it more with Black people. Separation by country and culture does NOT help us.
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Anyone who has walked through lower manhattan can tell you this. I avoid Bowery/Chinatown like the plague. They've really benefitted from this model minority myth, especially the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. I'm going to leave their racial issues for them to figure out on their own -- they're is a lot of infighting between them, especially between those from southeast asia and east asia. They're the poorest ethnic group in New York City, but go to another part of the country and you might find that the exact opposite is the case.

I think a lot boils down to the fact that these poor Asians are usually immigrants. Actual asian-americans (i.e. born in the us) once they become adults and establish themselves with their own families usually are not in poverty. They're probs not upper middle class, but they're not anywhere near destitute.

And to that last reddit comment, I've def seen at least one asian beggar. He was probably Malaysian or Indonesian or whatever but he was def asian. Although on the whole in my experience anyway most beggars on the nyc streets are white and black. I've lived in bk and manhattan.


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When you look around areas of Queens and lower Manhattan, I can see it.

This is something they have to address. If they stop trying to be honorary white and align with others that have similar issues they'd find more support. However this isn't an issue I care to make my own.

This was going to be my question to New Yorkers. Whether this is something you've noticed or if it's truly invisible to most people.


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There are tons of poor asians here, but you definitely don't see them begging. All the elderly ones go around on foot taking the recyclables out of the cans on recycle days. I have seen some wandering around who seemed to be mentally ill. But I think them not begging is a cultural thing. This is the bay area so I am assuming there are more asians here.


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This was going to be my question to New Yorkers. Whether this is something you've noticed or if it's truly invisible to most people.

Not invisible. I would not have guessed the highest rate of poverty and frankly I still question that, but I've known enough regular degular poor Asians.

A good friend of my Mom is a rather poor Chinese lady. I think it's visible in certain spots more than others.


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One of the local NY news stations did a special report on this about 10 years ago so this is not new to me but I do find their attitudes very interesting.
Just more reinforcement for me for what I’ve always known. There is no solidarity between minorities and there never will be.
I’m 100% for African Americans being for themselves and only for themselves .

The audacity of them! They even think their bums are better than our bums!
So sick of POC immigrating here thinking they are better than us and we owe them something. Our ancestors are the reason that they can even come here and the reason they are not shot on sight when they do.
Kudos to the one commenter who was talking some sense though.


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So many eye rolls for those comments. :rolleyes: The African American community has never been GIVEN a platform. We paid for it in blood. What has stopped Asians from doing the same? Why haven’t they been fighting against this model minority stereotype, if it has allegedly been disadvantages? They’ve been using the AA community as a shield, instead of fighting for their specific needs.

Like poor whites, Asians (and every other immigrant) have been lead to believe that they should be doing better than every black person they see. That’s why they hate us, the player, and not the game. POC my ass.


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Interesting read.

I know alot of Poor and uneducated Vietnamese and Thai people. Like someone said the Chinese, Japanese, & Koreans are the ones who seem to excel at a greater rate.

Asain people have bought into the model minority myth and think they are above black and latinos because of it. They think they are more deserving of the American dream.

Those girls in the nail shops and chinese take out are pretty much indentured servants.

White people are playing every group against each other. They understand human psychology way to well, and use that to make all minorities hate each other.
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