ASIAN American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) comprise the fastest-growing demographic in the United States and are widely believed to have achieved professional and educational success at higher rates compared to other minority groups.
However, a closer look at the over 50 AAPI ethnic groups who speak more than 100 different languages show proves the “model minority” myth wrong. Aggregated data often fails to capture the economic challenges that subpopulations within the AAPI community face.
On Tuesday, March 7, AAPI Equal Pay Day was observed to highlight that an AAPI woman gets roughly 85 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man earns. That means, it takes over two additional months for them to be paid what a white man earned the previous year, according to recent data compiled by the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF).
A report from the NAPAWF, shows that the estimated annual income for Filipino women is $49,000, compared to $45,000 for Filipino men and $55,000 for white, non-Hispanic men.
Moreover, southeast AAPI women have some of the highest wage gaps compared to other racial and ethnic groups. The gap also increases as women get older — according to the National Women’s Law Center, AAPI women aged 45-64 years old make 68 cents on average to each dollar earned by a white man. Those who are 65 years or older make 53 cents.
“It’s important to note that educational level varies very much within the community,” Shilpa Phadke, senior director of the women’s initiative at the Center for American Progress (CAP) told the Asian Journal. “When you consider those who hold a bachelor’s degree, the wage gap really widens. Asian American women might make 85 cents compared to white, non-Hispanic men, but that higher education pays off more for white men than it does for Asian American women. That wage gap widens as these women get older.”
She added that it’s important for policymakers to understand the details of the data in order to understand “Filipino women, Vietnamese women or Korean women and the types of occupations that they may hold that may have a wider wage gap.”
In an article on the website, The Establishment, NAPAWF policy associate Aliya Khan wrote that the wage inequality within the AAPI community can be an uncomfortable topic of discussion.
“It forces people to acknowledge areas of privilege, and it forces us to chip away at the myth that all members of the AAPI community have the same access to opportunities,” Khan wrote of the wealthier AAPIs.
However, for those who are not as wealthy, “discussing financial hardship can cause feelings of vulnerability— as if you are not living up to the standards and expectations outlined by family, friends, your community, and your dominant culture,” she added. “The silence within our community makes it hard to shed light on the lived reality of so many AAPI people.”
Advocates for equal pay for AAPI women recommend that federal legislation be passed aimed directly at reducing the pay inequity (i.e. the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Pay Equity for All Act) and supporting caregivers. Moreover, they suggest that federal agencies collect and report disaggregated data among the various AAPI groups, as well as transgender and gender-nonconforming communities, to provide a more accurate portrayal of the income disparities.
“On the data piece, we should really demand on the federal and state level that they collect as much data on AAPI communities as possible. Second is enforcement to make sure the federal government is enforcing claims around equal pay as much as they can and that the programs are not gutted,” Phadke said.