Asians Reach Out

Trends to watch in the real estate industry.

January 1, 2001

When you think of this country’s most successful minority populations, you often think of Asian Americans. But this perception is making it difficult for many in the exploding Asian Pacific American population to get the housing and community development assistance they need, an Urban Institute report says.

Asian Pacific Americans are generally defined to include people of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Southeast Asian, and Indian descent.

“The common perceptions of the relative successes of Asian Pacific American groups aren’t shared throughout the increasingly diverse Asian communities,” says the report.

The gap between successful Asian Pacific Americans and those mired in poverty is wide and getting wider, and that bodes ill for the country, because Asian Pacific Americans are now the fastest-growing minority population in the country, projected to reach 20 million in 2020, the report says.

It was only in 2000, for example, that the U.S. Small Business Administration began an outreach program to Asian Pacific American business owners. Before then, loan applications were virtually never sought from them, the report says. In other federal programs, the story is the same: Asians account for only a small portion of assistance.

But the need for assistance is growing, fueled by an influx within the past five years of poor, culturally diverse, and poorly educated immigrants from economically struggling Pacific Rim countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

The homeownership gap is wide, too. The national homeownership rate for whites is 17 percentage points higher than for Asian Pacific Americans, and that gap gets dramatically wider for Asians in central city areas, where many of the newer immigrants are clustered.

Culture is largely the reason behind the gap. “Many of these people come to the United States deeply suspicious of major institutions and the seemingly complex rules and practices that govern financial transactions,” the report says. New Asian immigrants tend to conduct their transactions in cash, avoiding bank accounts, credit cards, and leases. Many also assume that to buy a house, they need to provide a large downpayment.

What’s needed is a major investment in education and housing assistance to bring these hidden Asians into the economic mainstream, the report says.

To obtain Building Capacity: The Challenges and Opportunities of Asian Pacific American Community Development,commissioned by the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, contact the coalition at 212/979-1108.

Growing population

(in millions)

  1990 1999 Growth rate
Asian 6.9 10.4 5.06%
Black 29.3 33.3 1.60
Hispanic 22.4 31.8 4.48
White 188.3 196.4 0.53

Source: U.S. Census Bureau estimates

Modest homeownership

Share of net increase in homeowners, 1994–1999 (in percent)

White 62.9
Black 13.3
Asian 8.6
Hispanic 15.2

Total net growth, 6.9 million owners
Source: Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies

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