How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

More diversity among Asian Americans than meets the myth

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Patricia Nazario/KPCC

Victory Huey teaches the morning Citizenship Class at Evans Adult School in downtown Los Angeles near Chinatown. Eighty immigrants from all over the world are enrolled in the class.

Many observers regard Asian Americans as the nation's most successful immigrants. But a new report details how the nation's fastest-growing racial group is far more diverse a population, socioeconomically and otherwise, than “model minority” myths might indicate.

The stereotype of a generally well-educated, well-paid group doesn’t play out in the report by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, a civil rights and legal organization in Los Angeles. 

While some Asian American groups in Southern California do earn more than non-Latino whites, the study also found that some groups, such as Cambodians, Bangladeshis and Tongans, tend to earn less than blacks and Latinos. And Korean Americans in the region, for example, are as just as likely as Latinos to lack medical insurance.

“There is this myth that is prevalent that Asian American communities and Pacific Islander communities are uniformly successful," said Dan Ichinose, the legal center's demographic research director. "But when we look at the data, that is just not the case."