What Accounts For High Rates of Long Term Unemployment Among Asian-Americans

There is an employment paradox in the Asian-American community.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Asian-Americans have the lowest unemployment rate but experience the highest rates of long-term unemployment.

Asian-Americans experienced a 5.6 percent unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2012 and 4.8 during the same period this year.  Hispanics were unemployed at a rate of 10.4 and 8.7 during those same two periods, blacks at 13.6 and 13.3 and whites at 7.2 and 6.5, respectively.  According to a report released last month, overall unemployment rates were 8.0 and 7.4 percent during those same times.  Yet, latest statistics report more than half of unemployed Asian-Americans have been without work for longer than six months.  In fact, in the second quarter of this year, a greater percentage of Asian-Americans remained unemployed for the long term than any other minority group including blacks and Hispanics.

What accounts for this discrepancy?  National Public Radio (NPR) conducted a study that had some surprising explanations.  Kent Wong, a teacher at UCLA’s Center for Labor Research and Education attributes these high long term unemployment numbers to the fact that there is a misconception about the Asian-American community.  While a high percentage of the population is college educated, there are still significant parts of the population who are unskilled workers despite common stereotypes that portray Asians as studious and educated.  Many Asian-Americans congregate in ethnic enclaves within urban areas and focus on specific industries therefore limiting themselves to certain unskilled occupations.  Furthermore, about 70 percent of the Asian-American population is foreign born and there is the possibility that they’re experiencing discrimination because they lack language skills and may be socially different.

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