The wage gap for all AAPI women workers was largest in South Dakota (earning just 50.9 percent of what White men made), Mississippi (51.1 percent), Alabama, and Louisiana (both at 51.8 percent). This means that the median AAPI woman in these states made only about half as much as median White men each year, a staggering disparity. South Dakota, Mississippi, and Alabama also had the lowest median annual earnings for AAPI women, at $21,584, $22,585, and $23,715 respectively (see map above). In 24 states with sufficient data, AAPI women earned 65 percent or less of what White men did.
AAPI women faired the best in New Jersey (earning 79.6 percent of what White men made), Virginia (76.3 percent), and Illinois (76.1 percent). AAPI women had the highest median annual wages in DC ($59,351), New Jersey ($50,906), and Maryland ($42,761) (data is for all workers).
Even within the AAPI community, there were significant disparities between ethnic groups. While Taiwanese and Indian women at the median made about $70,000 for full-time, year-round work pre-COVID, Cambodian, Hmong, Samoan, Nepali, and Burmese women all made less than $35,000. Part of this variation is because AAPI women are economically polarized, overrepresented in both high- and low-wage occupations— a trend that also shows differences between ethnic groups.
AAPI women have been on the front lines of the pandemic. More than one in four AAPI women worked to provide essential services, a disproportionate share. But in these jobs, and across occupations, they are still are underpaid compared to their White male counterparts. In 2019, over 1.4 million AAPI women earned less than $15 per hour, exacerbated by the low federal minimum wage and rising cost of living.
Discrimination, occupational segregation, a flawed immigration system, and other structural factors continue to threaten Asian American and Pacific Islander women’s economic security, both before the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout the recovery. Without social policies to ensure women and people of color’s economic security, mobility, and equity, these deep inequalities will persist.
Thank you to Felicity Hector-Bruder for providing research assistance on this project.