Story at a glance

  • Recent Census Bureau data reveals Asian American households saw major upticks in income from the 2005 to 2019 timespan.
  • Black Americans reaped the lowest gains, highlighting institutional racial and economic redlining as ingrained in the U.S.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed a new trend within U.S. income growth: Over the past 10 and a half years, Asian Americans have experienced the biggest increase in income than any other racial or ethnic group, jumping by 8 percent. 

The Associated Press reports that Asian American households beat the average median household income growth by a noticeable amount, with average U.S. households seeing 2.3 percent more in income within the 2005-2009 period to the 2015-2019 period.

Other racial and ethnic groups within the U.S. saw increases as well. Latino households grew by approximately 6 percent. Households led by non-Hispanic whites saw a slower amount of income growth at 3 percent, and Black households reported a smaller rise of about 2 percent. 


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Overall, the median household income for 2015-2019 was $62,843. Broken down by racial demographics, average income for non-Hispanic white households was $68,785 and $51,811 for Latino-lead households. The average median income was $41,935 for Black-led households.

Asian Americans saw a clear increase, reporting an average of $88,204 as of 2019.

Experts believe that these trends are due to where job markets are blossoming. In the West and Southwest, which reportedly saw high economic growth, the population features a stronger Asian American and Latino presence and labor force.

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

Higher education credentials are also a variable within income growth. Approximately 54 percent of Asian Americans have a bachelor’s degree — the highest rate in any U.S. ethnic group.

“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,” said Marlene Kim, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “Asians are more likely to be in professional and technical jobs, which are thriving and increasing their pay and income level.”

This data took some account of the distinctions within the diverse Asian American group, which is composed of Americans of Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian and Indian descent, among others. Among this demographic, Asian Americans of Cambodian descent and Hmong origin were less likely to have a college degree than their Indian, Malaysian or Mongolian counterparts, Pew Research reported.

The latest income growth data also underscored the continued economic marginalization Black Americans face. Over the summer, the Black Lives Matter protests highlighted the institutional examples of racism in the U.S. that is reflected in the increases in income white Americans receive while Black Americans endure financial stagnation on average. 

Major companies like Adidas and Uber responded to the civil rights protests of 2020 by launching new initiatives to hire people of color and invest in Black communities and businesses in an effort to help close the racial wealth gap.

The same geographic role that spurred the growth of Asian American households’ incomes has worked against Black Americans, according to Logan, who notes that many Black communities are centered in the U.S. South, which hasn’t seen the same economic boom as other regions. 

“For Black households, we continue to see them struggle for the same reasons. Blacks are overrepresented [sic] in public employment, which experienced anemic income growth,” Logan said. “Also, Blacks in rural areas, especially in the rural South, are located in places with substantial business losses and weak job growth.”

Lucrative private companies, such as big tech, need to make stronger commitments to hiring Black employees, National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial said.

“This is the direction that jobs are going in,” Morial said. “There has been a lack of commitment to diversity, and in some cases, discriminatory hiring.”

This data was taken from the American Community Survey commissioned by the Census Bureau every five years. It did not take the 2020 recession induced by the COVID-19 pandemic into account. 


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Published on Dec 10, 2020