Asian Americans had the biggest income growth of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S. in the last 15 years, according to the Census Bureau.
Figures released on Thursday show that the group recorded an 8% increase in the said period, followed by Latinos (about 6%), non-Hispanic Whites (3%) and Blacks (approximately 2%).
Average U.S. households saw a 2.3% income increase within the 2005-2009 period to the 2015-2019 period.
As of 2019, Asian Americans reported the highest median household income ($88,204), followed by non-Hispanic Whites ($68,785), Latinos ($51,811) and Blacks ($41,935).
The trends are believed to be influenced by stronger Asian and Latino presence in the West and Southwest, which happen to have thriving markets.
“As the labor market tightened more in certain areas and in certain fields we would see more robust income growth for those groups,” Ohio State economist Trevon Logan said, according to the Associated Press. “Also, higher concentration in urban areas with larger job growth and increases in minimum wage can also play a role in income gains.”
The Asian income growth is also attributed to the fact that 54% of the group hold a bachelor’s degree — the highest in any racial or ethnic group.
“We are in a knowledge economy and a college education is key to getting professional jobs that pay well. Asians have the highest percentage of getting a college degree and I think you are seeing that effect,” said Marlene Kim, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “Asians are more likely to be in professional and technical jobs, which are thriving and increasing their pay and income level.”
In comparison, 35.8% of non-Hispanic Whites, 21.6% of Blacks and 16.4% of Latinos have earned bachelor’s degrees.
The American Community Survey measures all demographic data in five-year periods. While it found Asian Americans to perform well economically as a whole, it must be noted that wide differences exist within subgroups.
Indian, Malaysian and Mongolian Americans, for instance, had higher college education rates than Cambodian, Hmong and Laotian Americans, according to a 2019 report from the Pew Research Center. Bhutanese Americans had the lowest percentage of bachelor’s degree holders at 9%.
A 2018 report that reviewed data from 1970 to 2016 also found that Asian Americans had the highest income inequality of all racial or ethnic groups. Higher-income Asians saw a 96% income increase within the period, dwarfing lower-income Asians who saw an 11% increase.
“You’re looking at different cultures and languages and characteristics and different motivations for coming to the U.S.,” Pew senior researcher and report co-author Rakesh Kochhar said. “Asians are often pictured as the highest-achieving group in America, but it’s clear they are in fact the most economically divided ethnic group.”