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The Rise of Asian Americans in Chicago and US
In 1870, most Asian immigrants in Chicago were railroad workers who had emigrated from China. Since then, Asians have migrated from all areas of the continent and have greatly broadened their horizons for career opportunities. This growth can even be seen as recently as in the past decade, when Asian Americans in other cities such as San Francisco or Manhattan weren’t seeing the same thriving economies and opportunities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Asian American population grew by 43% between 2000 and 2010 to more than 15 million.
Today, Chicago has its own local chapter of National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) and Asian American Advancing Justice (AAAJ), It has also seen the emergence of Asian American Business Association (AABA) and the recently launched Asian American Executive Network (AAEN). Networks and opportunities such as these are just some of the reasons Chicago’s Asian American population continues to thrive and broaden its horizons for opportunity. These opportunities have led to increased wealth, a trend not only seen in Chicago, but across much of the nation.
A study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Asian Americans have seen the largest biggest increase of wealth over the past 25 years than other ethnic groups. From 1989 to 2013, the median wealth was constant among Caucasian families. Factoring inflation, the median wealth barely changed at all. Hispanic families saw an increase in wealth at higher percentages, but less actual dollars, and the African American community saw similar results. However, among Asian Americans, a median increase in wealth of $30,000 per family shows they are gaining wealth faster than any other group. This is thought to be in part due to the fact that now, a higher percentage of Asian Americans receive a college education than any other group.
The most data available shows another factor at play for wealth gaps among ethnic groups: higher household income. While the general population was earning a median household income of $49,800, Asian Americans were earning $66,000. Asian Americans, when surveyed, rated their personal prosperity as “good,” in 40% of cases, while the general public only stated this at a rate of 29%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also lists Asian Americans as having the lowest unemployment rate of any other racial group in the United States.
This population surge, of course, means that more local businesses are owned by Asian Americans, as well as homes. The State of Illinois is home to 600,000 Asian Americans, and 60,000 Asian-American-owned businesses. Wealth accumulation is made easier because local businesses are supported and thriving. These factors provide an advantage to the community as businesses are operated by those of similar cultures, and residents have more opportunities for retail jobs, as well as anchoring down with families in real estate purchases.
Overall, Chicago’s Asian American population continues to set an outstanding example for the rest of the country. During a time when overall population growth is stagnant, Asian Americans continue to thrive in the Chicago area with their own businesses, home ownership opportunities, job opportunities expanded thanks to local policies, and a support network like no other.