The Irvine Foundation’s singular goal is a California where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically. We cannot achieve that if we do not listen to and understand the experiences of all workers, even when it takes extra time, effort, and resources.
California is home to about one-third of the nation’s Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population, a diverse and rapidly growing community. In fact, people from Asia and the Pacific Islands are the fastest-growing racial group in the United States and represent 56% of recent immigrants in California.
In both research and politics, the diversity of people categorized as AAPI is under one label, and few studies interview AAPI residents in the large variety of languages they speak. Cost and capacity serve as major barriers. As a result, what we know of AAPI communities is limited, painting dozens of nationalities and ethnicities as a monolithic group. If we cannot break out the data, it is impossible to see the deep and unique challenges that exist.
Our California Worker Study last year is a case in point. In 2018, the Irvine Foundation gave a grant to Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) for a California Workers Study. The survey, conducted in Spanish and English, provides a unique snapshot of California’s workforce, including how the views of workers struggling with poverty compared to those who are economically secure. The survey of 3,318 Californians was representative of the state’s population, but the sample of AAPI respondents did not allow an exploration by nationality or ethnicity. This year, we partnered with PRRI and AAPI Data to fund the first 2019 AAPI California Workers Survey.
The study was conducted in seven languages and surveyed more than 2,600 California AAPI residents with an intentional sample of nine ethnic groups: Chinese, Filipino, Asian Indian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. The in-depth look at California AAPI workers shows financial security among many but also stark differences between AAPI communities.
AAPI experiences vary notably by community — some are less likely to struggle with poverty than the average Californian, and some are more likely to find themselves struggling. No matter their country of origin, all AAPI groups report challenges with wage theft and job security. Example insights include:
The report contains many more insights, especially between different AAPI communities in California. It also builds on our 2018 California Worker Survey — and our ongoing commitment to listening. We aim to use our listening efforts — with workers, nonprofits, employers, and more — to inform our strategy and grantmaking.
We also value this survey’s potential to spur new conversations and serve the communities studied. PRRI and AAPI Data will present this work with AAPI community groups, our philanthropic peers, and the California Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. We will have in-language learning briefs in Cambodian, Chinese, Hmong, Korean, and Vietnamese in January 2020.
We invite you to read the 2019 AAPI California Workers Survey and to share your own comments below.