Some AAPI Women Lose More Than $1 Million in Earnings Because of Racial Wage Gap

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  • Some of the highest and lowest earners among women are under the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) umbrella.
  • While Taiwanese and Indian women earn more than their white male counterparts, the wage gap for other ethnic subgroups is significant, with Nepalese and Bangladeshi women earning $0.48 for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.
  • Over the course of a lifetime, Bangladeshi and Nepalese women will lose about $1.25 million due to the racial wage gap.

The racial wage gap is an ongoing issue that has been plaguing American society for decades. As we strive to achieve equality and fair treatment for all individuals, it's important to address these disparities and understand how they impact different communities. Due to the racial wage gap that affects Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women, they could lose out on more than $1 million in earnings over their lifetime, significantly impacting their savings account balances.

The large racial wage gap varies

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which celebrates the culture, traditions, and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. April 5th also marked Equal Pay Day for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women.

This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. When we think about the gender pay gap, the first thing that comes to mind is typically the disparity between the wages earned by men and women. However, it's important to note that this issue isn't just about gender; it's about race as well. According to research conducted by The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, AAPI women earn $0.80 for every $1 earned by white men. This means that AAPI women are losing out on a significant amount of money over the course of their careers.

Delving deeper into the numbers

This number doesn't show the full picture. Some communities, like Southeast Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women experience significant wage gaps. For example, Taiwanese women earn $1.08 for every dollar earned by a white man, while Nepalese women only earn $0.48 for that same dollar. Here is a breakdown based on ethnic subgroups:

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Ethnicity Earnings ratio compared with white, non-Hispanic men
Taiwanese 1.08
Indian 1.07
Japanese 0.85
Chinese 0.83
Filipino 0.79
Korean 0.77
Malaysian 0.77
Fijian 0.69
Chamorro 0.65
Sri Lankan 0.65
Indonesian 0.64
Cambodian 0.63
Laotian 0.63
Hmong 0.62
Hawaiian 0.61
Samoan 0.61
Thai 0.61
Vietnamese 0.56
Pakistani 0.55
Mongolian 0.53
Bhutanese 0.52
Tongan 0.52
Burmese 0.50
Bangladeshi 0.48
Nepalese 0.48
Data source:, equal pay data.

The AAPI community is diverse and spans across many continents and oceans. Unfortunately, the AAPI umbrella term misses the unique experiences of these specific ethnic subgroups in the U.S. Despite Taiwanese and Indian women earning more than their white male counterparts, the wage gap for 23 out of 25 ethnic subgroups drops significantly to 48% to 85% of every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.

Discrimination is a major factor

One of the main factors contributing to the racial wage gap is discrimination. AAPI women face discrimination in a variety of ways, from being denied opportunities for advancement to being paid less than their male and white counterparts for doing the same job. This discrimination can be subtle or overt, but regardless of how it manifests, the result is the same: AAPI women are being paid less than they deserve.

The "model minority" myth

As Sung Yeon Choimorrow (Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum) stated, "when we examine wages using disaggregated data, we find that it upends the dangerous 'model minority' myth and the false idea that all Asian Americans are high-achieving immigrants and from financially prosperous communities."

The "model minority" myth suggests that all AAPI individuals are successful, which can lead to the false assumption that they don't need as much support or resources as other communities. This can result in AAPI women being overlooked for promotions or opportunities for which they are just as qualified as their white or male colleagues. It can also create a culture of silence, where AAPI women feel that they can't speak up about the discrimination they are experiencing because they don't want to be seen as "rocking the boat."

Losing $1,200,000 in a lifetime

The racial wage gap has lasting consequences for AAPI women. According to a study by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), AAPI women working full time stand to lose $1,200,000 over the course of a 40-year career, on average. Due to the wide differences between subgroups, the amount is as high as $1.25 million. Using the NWLC's calculations, Burmese women stand to lose $1.2 million and Bangladeshi and Nepalese women will lose about $1.25 million over their lifetime.

This has a ripple effect on their financial stability, their retirement savings, and their overall quality of life. It also has implications for their families and communities, as they may not be able to provide the same level of support or financial security as they would if they were paid what they deserved. In addition, it impacts future generations and their inheritance.

The racial wage gap is a complex issue that needs to be addressed on multiple levels. It requires changes in policy, shifts in cultural attitudes, and individual action. As we continue to work towards creating a more equitable society, it's important that we pay attention to the unique challenges faced by different communities, including AAPI women. By acknowledging the impact of the racial wage gap on their lives and taking steps to address it, we can create a more just and equal society for everyone.

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