Advancing Social Justice for Asian Americans

Asian Americans Advancing Justice offered policymakers, educators, funders and activists a considerable compilation of data to consider when it comes to issues of civic engagement, education attainment, income and health disparities and housing concerns. In fact, in Philadelphia, common conversations around poverty and its impact too often omit one of the largest groups in its grip: Asian Americans.

So said the newly released report, A Community of Contrasts. A coalition of Philadelphia-based advocates unveiled the study at a breakfast meeting Wednesday, co-hosted by PCHR. The report reviewed a host of data sets comparing and contrasting the social health of Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander populations in Boston, New York and Philadelphia and challenged several common misconceptions.

aaaj_020514Among the local findings:

  • Some 1 in 4 the state’s Asian-American population call Philadelphia home
    • The Asian-American population grew by 43 percent in the past decade, whereas the number of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders grew by 32 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau
    • That trend mirrors similar activity throughout the Northeast, where both are among the fastest-growing racial groups
  • Nearly half of Asian-American immigrants in Philadelphia are naturalized, voting-eligible citizens
  • Buying power across Pennsylvania tallies more than $12 billion, more than doubled since 2000
  • Conversely, unemployment quadrupled among Asian Americans here between 2007 and 2011, pushing 1 in 2 Asian-American families to life below the poverty line
  • Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese and Cambodian Americans represent the city’s largest ethnic groups among Asian Americans
  • Nearly 1 in 2 Asian-American residents here have limited English proficiency, which serves as a barrier to a host of opportunities and services – from employment to education to healthcare
  • Asian Americans are uninsured at rates that are twice that of their white neighbors
  • About 1 in 5 Asian Americans are under age 21
  • Some 8 in 10 Asian-American students are likely to be enrolled in a public school, and half report bullying to be a problem
  • Despite the “model minority myth,” Asian-American students are a diverse lot, including a swath with educational attainment similar to those of their African-American and Latino peers
  • Some 1 in 2 Cambodian-American, as well as Vietnamese-American, households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing; upwards of 1 in 3 Cambodian-American renters spend 50 percent or more of their income on housing

The report presents a compelling snapshot of the lives of the nearly 115,000 Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander residents living here. It also can help shape a next generation conversation on the tools and targets for those fighting for social justice.

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