Income Inequality in U.S. Greatest Among Asians: Report

Asians have displaced blacks as the most economically divided group in the United States, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.


The greatest income disparity in the United States is visible among the Asian community in the country, a recent research report says. Asians also rank as the highest earning racial and ethnic group in the United States, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

From 1970 to 2016, the gap in the standard of living between Asians near the top and the bottom of the income ladder nearly doubled, the report said, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The distribution of income among Asians transformed from being one of the most equal to being the most unequal among America’s major racial and ethnic groups, according to the report, titled “Income Inequality in the U.S. Is Rising Most Rapidly Among Asians.”

Asians have displaced blacks as the most economically divided group in the United States, the report added. In 2016, Asians at the 90th percentile of their income distribution — the top 10 percent of earners in the United States — had 10.7 times the income of Asians at the 10th percentile — the bottom 10 percent of earners, according to the analysis. The ratio among Asians was significantly greater than that among blacks (9.8), whites (7.8) and Hispanics (7.8).

At the 90th percentile, Asians had an income of $133,529 in 2016, compared with $12,478 for those at the 10th percentile. The incomes of whites at the 90th percentile whites was $117,986, as compared to $80,502 for blacks and $76,847 for Hispanics.

The median income (50th percentile) of Asians in 2016 was $51,288, higher than that of whites ($47,958), blacks ($31,082) and Hispanics ($30,400).

However, Asians at the 10th percentile of income distribution followed whites in 2016. Asians’ income of $12,478 was less than the $15,094 earned by whites, while the Hispanics ($9,900) and blacks ($8,201) were ranked even lower.

The income at the 90th percentile for Asians in 2016 was roughly double the income at that percentile in 1970, rising 96 percent over the period. This was in sharp contrast with the growth at the median (54%) and at the 10th percentile (11%).

The rise in inequality in income has been partly driven by immigration, the report pointed out. Immigrants accounted for 81 percent of the growth in the Asian adult population from 1970 to 2016, and the foreign-born share among Asians increased from 45 percent to 78 percent during this period.

The Asian immigrants carry varying levels of educational qualifications, and the diversity in their origins and experiences is reflected in the high level of income inequality among them. In 2015, 72 percent Indians had at least a bachelor’s degree, among adults ages 25 and older, as compared to 9 percent Bhutanese. Median household income varied from $100,000 among Indians to $36,000 among the Burmese.

Asians, the fastest growing major racial and ethnic population in the United States, are also the highest-earning group. In 2016, the median annual income for Asian adults was $51,288, compared with $47,958 for whites, $31,082 for blacks and $30,400 for Hispanics, the report said.

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