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SEARAC Releases Unprecedented Research on the Financial and Banking Capabilities of Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian, and Vietnamese Californians

Posted: Jun 23, 2012

Washington, DC – On Wednesday last week the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) released its report, Encouraging Economic Empowerment: A Report on the Financial and Banking Capabilities of Southeast Asian American Communities in California. The report aims to provide, for the first time ever, insight into the banking and financial capabilities of Cambodian, Laotian, Hmong, and Vietnamese Americans in California.

Many of the report’s findings reinforce the fact that Asian American and Pacific Islander sub populations need targeted strategies to be financially capable because of the specific challenges they face. For example, according to the 2010 American Community Survey, it is estimated that Southeast Asian Californians are twice as likely to be linguistically isolated than the overall California population. Additionally, Hmong Californians are almost four times as likely and Cambodian Californians almost three times as likely to live in poverty as non-Hispanic Whites in California. SEARAC’s report considers how these factors contribute to the financial literacy of Southeast Asian Californians.

“We know that Southeast Asian Americans face structural barriers in accessing and participating in mainstream establishments, especially when it comes to banking and financial institutions, said Doua Thor, executive director of SEARAC. “But SEARAC’s research challenges the perception that Southeast Asian Americans and other refugee populations do not have the financial knowledge, capabilities, or desire to build assets and invest in their own and their community’s financial well-being. Our hope is that community organizations, financial institutions, policymakers, and foundations will partner together to develop programs that reach out to and foster the strengths of Southeast Asian Americans in order to open up access for current and future generations.”

Southeast Asian Californians surveyed for the research reported that overall, they have limited interactions and experiences with mainstream financial institutions. Many older and limited English proficient Southeast Asian Californians rely on family or other trusted community members to provide assistance for banking needs. Those who reported never having a bank account or no longer having a bank account attribute this to not having enough money to save. Read more here.


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