Census: Hmong Increase Per Capita Income

AP, Nov. 14, 2006

Asians living in Minnesota, thanks in part to an emerging Hmong middle class, have pulled nearly even with whites in economic success, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey.

The trend is also being fueled by a surge in the number of well-educated immigrants from India, the Census Bureau planned to report Tuesday.

However, other large racial and ethnic groups, especially African immigrants, are sliding backward, apparently because a strong tide of newcomers just starting out is diluting strides being made by those who have been in Minnesota longer.

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey found that the per capita income of the Hmong jumped by 50 percent in the past five years while rates of public assistance dropped nearly by half. That’s partly because older people are passing from the scene while younger ones who started in American schools in the 1980s are emerging from school, finding good jobs and buying homes.

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At the same time, Asians from India, with household incomes nearly twice as high as Americans as a group, are growing rapidly in number.

In almost every state with a substantial Asian population, Asians earn more than whites. Until recently, the exceptions were Minnesota and Wisconsin, two states with major Hmong populations. Asians in Wisconsin still earn markedly less than whites.

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It’s still more common for the Hmong to hold factory and service jobs, the Census figures indicate, but they’re earning a lot more than they did while they were in school.

Asians drew statistically even with whites in Minnesota in 2005 in median household income. Per capita income is still lower than that of whites because Asian families are bigger and extended families are likelier to live together. And poverty rates are higher, partly due to the many older people with modest skills.

The survey shows most other communities of color aren’t doing as well as Asians. Whatever success they are experiencing is being hidden in official figures by large numbers of recent arrivals who are pulling down the averages.

The statistical category “African American” in Minnesota is distorted because more than 50,000 are immigrants and refugees or their children. All but a handful have arrived in the past 15 years.

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