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Child Poverty Study: APA Reality Belies “Model Minority” Stereotype

Posted: Mar 06, 2012

NEW YORK--Filipinos have lowest poverty level among Asian Pacific American (APA) children in New York City (NYC), according to a report released last month by the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF).

Poverty estimates put Filipino children at 3.3 percent, the lowest, while Bangladeshi children rank highest at 42.4 percent. Filipinos are a step below Japanese children, at 4.5 percent, according to the CACF report, “We’re Not Even Allowed to Ask for Help: Debunking the Myth of the Model Minority.”

Overall, 27.8 percent of NYC children are in poverty. APA children constitute one in seven New York students. Other childhood poverty levels included Pakistani children, 28.1 percent; all; Chinese, 23.1 percent; Indian, 20.9 percent; and Koreans, 12 percent.

Poverty, says the report, is one of the factors putting APA children at a disadvantage — along with overcrowding in schools and unequal distribution of resources.

The report reveals that the "model minority" stereotype of the 1960s is a myth is embedded in the community, and students feel intense pressure at home. One told the study’s authors, “They’ve expected me to go to an Ivy League school ever since I was little . . . . I feel a lot of pressure. If I get a B, I get mad. They also expect me to help my brother. They keep saying, ‘We are depending on you so that when we’re older, we don’t have to work anymore, and we can just depend on you.’”

The report further notes half of APA children come from families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, and almost one-third of low-income Asian children in the study had limited English proficiency.

Being labeled a model minority is a "false narrative," said a panel of experts reacting to the report. It "ignores the diversity" of cultures, languages and socioeconomic conditions of APA students, said CACF Deputy Director Vanessa Leung.

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