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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento

May 23, 2006

Study finds Asian Americans in Sacramento
face high poverty rates

Asian and Pacific Islander American in Sacramento

View Report

A new study by researchers at Sacramento State finds that one out of every four Asian and Pacific Islander American families in Sacramento lives below the poverty line, a rate more than double for California and the nation.

Nearly 25 percent of Asian Americans in Sacramento live in poverty compared to almost 13 percent of Asian Americans in California and nationwide. And nearly 27 percent of Pacific Islanders in Sacramento live in poverty compared to 15.7 percent in statewide and 17.7 percent across the country.

And some ethnic groups in Sacramento have extremely high poverty rates, including 46.1 percent for Hmong Americans. According to the federal government, the poverty level for a family of four in 2006 is $20,000. The overall poverty rate in California is 13.3 percent and almost 13 percent nationwide.

“These levels of extreme poverty in the Asian American and Pacific Islander American community in Sacramento point out the need for increased social services for the most disadvantaged groups,” said Timothy P. Fong, co-author of the report and director of the Asian American Studies Program at Sacramento State. Fong attributed the high levels of poverty to the large number of immigrants and refugees who have little education and earn low wages.

The report, “Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Sacramento: A Community Profile, 2000 and Beyond,” is the result of work by Fong and Sacramento State Professor Greg Kim-Ju. The two spent nearly a year analyzing statistics from the 2000 Census and other sources to compile the report, which the researchers say is the first comprehensive look at the status of Asian and Pacific Islander American ethnic groups in the city of Sacramento.

“We wanted to get a clearer picture of the highly visible and the less visible aspects of the lives of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Sacramento,” said Kim-Ju, who has conducted similar community profiles while at the Institute for Asian American Studies at UMass Boston.

Other key findings from the report:

  • The percentage of school-age children in the Asian American community is more than double state and national percentages. Researchers found that 19.9 percent of Asian Americans in Sacramento are between the ages of 5 and 17.
  • Fewer Asian Americans in Sacramento have college degrees than elsewhere in California or nationwide. About one in four has either received a college, graduate or professional degree, while 41.6 percent of Asian Americans in the state have a college degree and 44.1 percent across the country. Hmong Americans at 4.8 percent have one of the lowest percentages of Asian Americans with at least a bachelor’s degree. Japanese Americans at 38.9 percent have the highest.
  • The median household income for Asian Americans in Sacramento is considerably lower than for Asian Americans in California and across the country. The median income is $38,398, compared with $55,366 for Asian Americans in California and $51,908 nationwide. The median household income for Pacific Islanders is $36,033.
  • The percentage of Asian Americans in Sacramento receiving public assistance is almost three times higher than Asian Americans elsewhere in California and nearly four times higher than the national average. More than half of Hmong American households receive public assistance.
  • Eleven percent of Asian Americans between the ages of 5 and 17 lack proficiency in English, a finding the researchers called an area of concern.
  • Nearly 10 percent of Asian Americans do not have health insurance, a rate nearly twice as high as whites at 5.7 percent. And Asian and Pacific Islander Americans have much higher rates of tuberculosis.

The researchers estimate Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans make up nearly a quarter of the city’s residents. The researchers noted that Hmong Americans experienced a 164.5 percent growth rate between 1990 and 2000, and could be the largest Asian American ethnic group in Sacramento by 2010, surpassing Chinese Americans.

Fong said he hopes the report will be useful to scholars as well as community organizations, businesses and government agencies.

“Asian Americans have been known as the model minority, but our report shows that there is much diversity within the Asian American community. While some are doing very well others are not,” Fong said.

The report was produced with support from Kaiser Permanente, the Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce, and the Council of Asian Pacific Islander Americans Together for Advocacy and Leadership (CAPITAL). Photos used in the report courtesy of the Sacramento Bee.

To view the report go to Timothy P. Fong can be reached at (916) 278-5856 and Greg Kim-Ju can be reached at (916) 278-6738. For media assistance, call the public affairs office at (916) 278-6156.

View Report


California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •


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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •