The ‘invisible’ targets of hatred and hardship: Lower-income Asian Americans the focus of new COVID-19 study

Boston Globe
Kay Lazar
April 20, 2022

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“Those in Chinatown or the working communities in Malden and Quincy are often invisible,” said Carolyn Wong, a political scientist at the Institute for Asian American Studies at UMass.

Wong said she embarked on research to help widen the public’s perception of Asian Americans, who are often stalked by a “model minority myth.”

“The impression that policy makers and a lot of the public have is just looking at the better off [Asian Americans],” Wong said.

“The movies, TV, a lot of media images, or ideas people have about how well off Asians are, come from the successful scientists and medical folks, and those are the ones who are more prominent in the public’s mind,” she said.

Wong and her UMass coauthor, Ziting Kuang, surveyed 192 mostly low- and middle-income Asian Americans in 2020 and early 2021 in Greater Boston and found that roughly 75 percent reported working jobs that placed them at higher risk for COVID, and about 40 percent reported feeling very or extremely worried about being able to pay their rent or mortgage.

A third said they were very or extremely afraid they would run out of food because of a lack of money.

Income inequality, the report found, is the greatest among Asian Americans, displacing Black people as the most economically divided racial or ethnic group in the country.

The large gap in experiences the UMass researchers found between wealthy and low-income Asian Americans mirrors the findings of a 2018 Pew Research Center report that found income inequality rising most rapidly among that group. It found that income distribution among Asian Americans transformed from being one of the most equal to being the most unequal among the United States’ major racial and ethnic groups.

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