Indian-Americans have lowest poverty rate among Asian Americans: Pew Research

Are Asian Americans living the ‘American Dream’? People outside the US think those living there always make good money and have a nice life. But the reality might be different.

Over 2.3 million people with Asian roots living in the US were living in poverty in 2022, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. The analysis of data from the US Census Bureau shows that one out of every ten Asian American lives in poverty.

Indian-Americans are doing better than any other Asian-American group. Indian-Americans have a poverty rate of 6%, which is the lowest among all other Asian groups living in the US.

Contrast this with the Burmese and Hmong Americans, who have the highest poverty rates, at 19% and 17%, respectively.


The Pew Research study also shows that one out of every three Asian Americans aged 25 and older living in poverty has a bachelor’s degree.

In comparison, only 14% of non-Asians in poverty have the same level of education.

Interestingly, Asian Americans aged 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree are less likely to live in poverty (5%) compared to those with lower levels of education (13%).


Most of the Asian Americans, around six out of ten, living in poverty were immigrants. And not many of these immigrants spoke English very well.

Among Asian immigrants aged 5 and older living below the poverty line, only 44% are good at English (which means they speak only English or speak it very well). In comparison, 61% of immigrants above the poverty line are good at English.

Around 1 million Asians living below the poverty line are in 10 big cities in the US.

Surprisingly, over half a million of them are in just three cities: New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Each of these cities has over 100,000 Asians living in poverty. Together, they make up 26% of all Asian Americans living in poverty.

In Fresno, California, 19% of Asian Americans live in poverty. In Buffalo, New York, it’s 18%, and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it’s 15%. Even though these places have high poverty rates among Asian Americans, most Asian Americans in poverty live in areas with more Asian people than these cities.


According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2022 and 2023, nearly eight out of ten Asian adults living in poverty (79%) encountered financial difficulties in the past year. This contrasts with 48% of Asian adults above the poverty line who reported similar challenges.

Among Asian adults living in poverty, 57% were unable to save money for emergencies, a higher percentage than the 40% of Asian adults above the poverty line who experienced the same issue.

Additionally, 42% of those in poverty struggled to pay their bills, more than double the percentage of those above the poverty line (17%).

Moreover, 38% of Asian adults living in poverty relied on food banks or charitable organisations for food, which is about six times higher than the 6% among Asians living above the poverty line.

Financial problems are often compounded for those in poverty, with 65% experiencing two or more of these challenges simultaneously.

Asian immigrants’ reasons for immigrating to the US affect their access to government aid.

Notably, 33% of Asian immigrants fleeing conflict or persecution in their home countries receive assistance, compared to smaller shares seeking educational or economic opportunities or migrating to be with family.

Perceptions of the American Dream vary among Asian Americans living in poverty, with 47% believing it is out of reach. However, optimism about achieving it is prevalent, with 15% feeling they have already achieved it and 36% believing they are on their way to achieving it.

Asian adults, whether living below or above the poverty line, share similar views on what’s crucial for achieving the American dream. For those in poverty, the vast majority believe that having freedom of choice (91%), a good family life (91%), ensuring children’s opportunities (91%), and retiring comfortably (90%) are essential.

However, Asian adults in poverty are less likely to own homes compared to those above the poverty line, with 40% vs 71% respectively.

Published By:

Girish Kumar Anshul

Published On:

Apr 3, 2024

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