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Study Presents Complex Portrait of Chinese Americans

World Journal, News Report, Betty Lin, Translated by Jun Wang Posted: Nov 24, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) and the University of Maryland on Nov. 12 released the most comprehensive report on Chinese Americans to date. The study, "A Portrait of Chinese Americans, shows that the Chinese community in the United States is very diverse, and is becoming increasingly polarized socio-economically.

"The findings show Chinese Americans integrating into mainstream society, and the challenges that they face, explains Larry Shinagawa, associate professor and director of Asian American Studies at the University of Maryland and head researcher of the study. We found that it's no longer appropriate to see Chinese Americans as a monolithic community. Chinese sub-groups have very different needs. There's no one-size-fits-all solution to fix their problems. We hope getting to know the distinctions between different Chinese sub-groups will help policy makers make decisions that help all Chinese as well as Asian Americans.

The study was funded by the federal government and based on data from the 2006 U.S. Census. Researchers also interviewed individual Chinese Americans from all walks of life.

The study found that Chinese Americans receive less return on their investment in higher education compared to whites. Chinese American attorneys and those working in the health care industry are paid 44 percent less than their white counterparts. "This is contrary to what people commonly think, says Shinagawa. Though they have high achievement in education, Chinese Americans have many barriers blocking them from economic success."

New immigrants with low educational levels make up about half of the Chinese community's population in the United States, according to Shinagawa. The other half, which has a higher level of education, consists of immigrants who have lived in the United States for a longer period of time or are second-generation immigrants.

The study found that this disparity is reflected in their jobs and salaries. The Chinese working population in the United States is split evenly between so-called "blue collar" and "white collar" workers. The top three most popular industries for Chinese men between the ages of 16 and 64 are food production and restaurants (8.2 percent), software engineering (7.5 percent) and management (6.4 percent).

Meanwhile, the top six fields for Chinese women are accounting and auditing (6.4 percent), software engineering (4.6 percent), management (3.3 percent), waiting tables at restaurants (3.2 percent), working as a cashier (3.2 percent) and working in clothing factories (2.5 percent). The majority of Chinese women has a high school diploma and works in the labor sector.

"Chinese Americans are polarized in terms of economic status, educational levels as well as white collar and blue collar distinctions, Shinagawa says. This is a common phenomenon that often happens following immigration waves. At the same time, it also reveals that Chinese Americans who have lived in the country for a long time still have not achieved equality."

Although the average income in the U.S. Chinese community is higher than that of the general public, the poverty rate among Chinese Americans is as high as 9.4 percent, which is slightly lower than national average of 9.8 percent. Chinese Americans have the second highest poverty rate among Asian ethnic groups, after Korean Americans' 11.7 percent.

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A Portrait of Chinese America

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