Press Releases | Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy (PREE)

News from EPI Asian American unemployment shaped by education, geography, nativity and racial bias

For Immediate Release: Thursday, April 5, 2012
Phoebe Silag or Karen Conner, 202-775-8810


Asian American unemployment shaped by education, geography, nativity and racial bias

While Asian Americans held annual unemployment rates slightly lower than those of white workers during and after the Great Recession, certain pockets of this population fared worse than white and other minority workers. These are the findings released today in the issue brief, Unfairly disadvantaged?, by the Economic Policy Institute.  The report finds that the lower unemployment rate among Asian Americans, when compared to white workers, is due to overall higher education levels.  When comparing unemployment rates between whites and Asian Americans with the same education levels of at least a bachelor’s degree, Asian Americans have a higher unemployment rate than white workers.

The report also drills into the subset of unemployed Asian Americans to understand why, in 2010, Asian Americans had the highest share of long-term unemployed (jobless for over half a year) when compared with white, black and Hispanic workers. That year, nearly half of all unemployed Asian Americans fell into this category.    

The report finds that the following factors influence Asian American jobless rates:

·         Highly educated Asian Americans’ higher unemployment rates when compared with highly educated whites are partly due to nativity—i.e., the fact that Asian Americans are more likely to be foreign born.

·         Being foreign born and residing in states with high long-term unemployment partly explains
Asian Americans’ high long-term unemployment rates.

·         Racial bias also appears to be a factor in patterns of unemployment and long-term unemployment among Asian Americans. Compared with similar white workers, many Asian Americans are having a harder time finding work.

The report reveals that Asian American workers with higher education levels face disadvantages relative to similarly educated whites in finding work. 

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About the author:
Marlene Kim, Ph.D. is Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.