Spotlight on Asian American & Pacific Islander Poverty: A Demographic Profile

Josh Ishimatsu
Date of Publication: 
June, 2013
Source Organization: 

Produced by national CAPACD, a network of more than 100 community-based organizations and individuals active in 17 states, spotlight on Asian American & Pacific Islander poverty report seeks to illuminate the plight of the nearly two million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) who live in poverty.

Often overlooked in the common Asian-American success narrative, AAPIs are one of the fastest-growing poverty populations. Since the advent of the Great Recession in 2007, the number of AAPI living in poverty has grown by 38 percent, second only to the 42 percent growth in the number of Hispanic poor. Surprisingly, the native-born segment of the AAPI population is growing faster than the immigrant segment, even though immigrants constitute a majority of all AAPIs. The ethnic groups with the highest concentrations of poverty are Hmong (27.0 percent), Bangladeshi (21.1 percent), Tongan (18.9 percent), Cambodian (18.8 percent), Samoan (16.2 percent), and Pakistani (16.0 percent). The report also examines the geographic and residential settlement patterns of poor AAPIs and finds flaws in a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center entitled The Rise of Asian Americans. Specifically, the CAPACD report finds higher residential concentrations of AAPI poverty than suggested in the PEW report and notes that most poor AAPIs live in majority minority neighborhoods. The author concludes "that the recent media noise about the disappearance of inner-city concentrations of AAPIs (e.g. Chinatowns) has been exaggerated." Given the diverse settlement patterns of AAPIs, the author suggests that "neighborhood-based and regional-based approaches are both appropriate in outreaching to and serving poor AAPIs." Moreover, because poor AAPIs live in diverse neighborhoods, "there are opportunities to build multi-racial and multi-ethnic coalitions around community development issues at neighborhood, regional and national levels." (Abstract courtesy of Dr. Nicholas V. Montalto).

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Get more information from National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD).


Ishimatsu, J. (2013). Spotlight on Asian American & Pacific Islander Poverty: A Demographic Profile. National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development. Washington: DC. Available at: