Asian Americans Have the Lowest Incomes in Mississippi; Highest in New Jersey

Asian Americans have the highest median household income of the major racial and ethnic groups in the United States. This is partially the result of an immigration process that hasfavored Asian immigrants with higher levels of educational attainment. However, it is important to remember that the Asian American population is diverse, and the median does not reveal the range of Asian American incomes.

There is a great deal of variation in Asian American household incomes by state. In 2021, the lowest median Asian American household income was in Mississippi. The Mississippi median was $56,400 (Figure 1), $44,200 below the national Asian American median of $100,600. West Virginia ($57,200), Montana ($59,200), Louisiana ($60,400), and Nebraska ($68,300) were the other states with the five lowest Asian American incomes.

Figure 1

The lower cost of living in these bottom states does not explain the low incomes for Asian Americans. Even with cost-of-living adjustments, these incomes are far below the national Asian American median. Mississippi, West Virginia, and Louisiana, in particular, have relatively low incomes for people of all races.

New Jersey, meanwhile, had the highest Asian American median income of $138,300. It was followed by Washington ($123,400), Virginia ($120,500), Massachusetts ($113,900), and Maryland (113,100). These states have higher Asian American incomes than would be predicted by the relative cost of living.

It is important to recognize that while Asian Americans have the highest median household income, there are still many Asian Americans earning far less. In states like Mississippi, West Virginia, and Louisiana, they appear to be encountering similar economic hardships as their neighbors of other races. Thus, policies which help low-income workers and families broadly (e.g., increasing the minimum wage, supporting unionization, increasing access to health insurance, building affordable housing, etc.) in these low-income states would also help Asian Americans.

This first appeared on CEPR.

Algernon Austin, a senior research fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has conducted research and writing on issues of race and racial inequality for over 20 years. His primary focus has been on the intersection of race and the economy.