A Quarter of Asian American and Pacific Islander Californians Are Struggling with Poverty


WASHINGTON, DC -- About 23% of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in California are working and struggling with poverty. The survey finds a state of "two Californias" among AAPIs—one where some AAPI workers report a great deal of financial stability and another where AAPI workers report significant financial insecurity and struggle.

"Recent AAPI immigrants come to California with an optimistic vision of achieving the American Dream," notes PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. "While they are still more optimistic than Californians overall, the longer they're here, the more their real-life struggles and hardships erode this optimism and the sense that the American Dream is possible."


A majority of AAPI Californians (62%) believe in the American Dream: that if you work hard, you'll get ahead. At the same time, 55% of AAPI Californians question the narrative that "hard work and determination alone" guarantees success. More than six in ten AAPI workers (64%) struggling with poverty disagree with this narrative, compared to a smaller majority (54%) of AAPI workers who are not struggling with poverty.

Almost one in five AAPI Californians say that they or someone in their household had to put off seeing their doctor or purchasing medication for financial reasons (19%) or had difficulty paying their rent or mortgage (19%).

Other Notable Findings

  • AAPI workers who are struggling with poverty are more likely than non-struggling workers to have been required to work overtime without being paid for it (25% vs. 16%), to be paid less than the minimum wage (20% vs. 5%), or to have had their wages withheld by their employer (14% vs. 5%). More than six in ten AAPI Californians (63%) say that employers generally see people like them as replaceable.
  • Almost one in five AAPI Californians (18%) say that it would be either very difficult or nearly impossible to pay a $400 emergency expense. AAPI Californians are virtually as likely as all Californians (17%) to experience this level of economic insecurity.
  • More than one in ten (14%) AAPI Californians worked in the gig economy over the last year. AAPI workers struggling with poverty were almost twice as likely as those not struggling to participate in the gig economy (24% vs. 15%).
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