Asian-Americans in U.S. earn less than white men: study

NEW YORK Tue Dec 7, 2010 10:31am EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Asian-American men are paid up to 29 percent less than equally qualified white males, according to a new study.

The gap is narrowest, at 8 percent, for U.S.-born Asian-Americans who speak fluent English and widest, at nearly 30 percent, for first-generation U.S. citizens who were born and educated abroad.

Even men who were born and educated abroad but who received university degrees in the U.S. earn 14 percent less than white men.

"The most striking result is that native-born Asian Americans - who were born in the U.S. and speak English perfectly - their income is 8 percent lower than whites after controlling for their college majors, their places of residence and their level of education," said ChangHwan Kim.

"No ethnic group has reached full parity with whites," the assistant professor of sociology at the University of Kansas added in a telephone interview.

The study, published in the journal American Sociological Review, showed the only sub-group of Asian-Americans who achieved income parity with whites was those who were born abroad, came to the United States as children, were educated in the country and speak fluent English.

Kim credits their success to having seen their immigrant parents' achievements after arriving in the United States.

He added that the research, based on data from the 2003 National Survey of College Graduates and involving people aged 25 to 64, does not explain the reasons for the lack of income parity.

"The numbers don't show what causes the discrimination," he said. "It shows an improvement over previous generations, no doubt about it."

He added that the future of income parity between Asian-Americans and whites depends largely on levels of anti-immigrant sentiment that may arise in tough economic times.

"If we continue to face a terrible economic situation, the ability of people to overcome anti-immigrant sentiment is important. How we act and how we respond will be crucial to how these numbers change."

(Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr., editing by Patricia Reaney)

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