In the News: Survey: Diversity of Asian America Hides Wealth Gap

By: Emil Guillermo
NBC News

Survey: Diversity of Asian America Hides Wealth Gap

National numbers for the financial health of the Asian American Pacific Islander [AAPI] community may look good in aggregate. But a closer look, and a new study, reveals that subgroups are much more financially vulnerable than they're widely believed to be.

A new survey by the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community pulls apart the national numbers to show how generational gaps, ethnicity, and language proficiency influence the fastest-growing population in America's financial well being.

Despite growing AAPI income levels, the report finds "a decline in overall net worth, growing sub-populations of poverty, and overall increase in the wealth gap between segments of the population." But the report's key warning sign is that respondents may not be able to help themselves out of money crises due to a lack of financial knowledge.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents reported having a checking and/or savings account, but 25 percent say they didn't know who to turn to for financial advice. Generational difference was also a factor, with US-born members of the community twice as likely to have employer-sponsored retirement accounts. Physical bank locations were found to be "critical" for AAPI communities, especially for recent immigrants and those with limited English proficiency.

"Access to knowledge is influenced by ethnicity and language, income and education," the report said.

The report's top recommendations include increasing investments in language-appropriate resources to reach the AAPI community, especially around credit awareness and protection.

U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, (D-CA), ranking member of the House Committee on Financial Services, will address the inclusion and capability of AAPI on matters of personal finance in a media conference scheduled for Wednesday.

The survey, out today, is part of the report, "Scrimping + Saving," funded by the National Council of La Raza and Citi.