By: Anishi Patel
It is not shocking news that a significant wage gap in the U.S. exists and likely will persist. On average, women earn less than men, and men of color earn less than white men, but there is one group that often falls off the radar when we consider the wage gap: Asian men. According to a 2016 Pew Research Report, Asian men earn 117% as much as white men, making them the top median hourly earners in the U.S.. Asian women, for their part, earned a median of $18 an hour, narrowly topping white women’s $17 median earnings.
These findings prove the progress women in general have made in lessening the wage gap, and also that work remains to be done, since there is still a $6 wage gap between Asian women’s median hourly earnings and Asian men’s, and a $4 gap between white women and white men. (Note: both women and men of Hispanic and black backgrounds, for a variety of reasons stemming from educational opportunities to oppression, earned significantly lower median hourly pay.)
I’ll admit, the Pew Research Center’s findings regarding Asian men surprised me. Previously, when I heard about the wage gap, I assumed white men were the country’s top earners and accepted that this was the situation. It never occured to me that other ethnic groups could make such rapid progress in a predominantly eurocentric society, but here we are.
A NextShark article describes possible reasons for Asians coming out on top of the wage gap: high rates of college education and data indicating Asians do well with saving money combine to support projections that Asians may be America’s next wealthiest racial group.
These predictions got me thinking — if Asians, on average, are able to do so well for themselves in the U.S., what do some of the wealthiest Asian countries and cities look like? Where around the world are Asians’ crowning jewels, our very own hotspots of wealth and culture and progress? Perhaps a question that I, as a young Asian-American women, should have asked much earlier, but cut my narcissistic American self some slack.
My new interest took me first to the island/city-state of Singapore, because let’s be honest, we all read Crazy Rich Asians. Singaporeans enjoy a high standard of living, and the “most expensive city in the world,” as as the Economist Intelligence Unit ranks it, is a prime example of Asian excellence. Despite its own large wage gap and extortionate property rental prices, Singapore boasts residents of diverse ethnicities (its four official languages are English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil), exceptional shopping, and astounding flora and fauna (nearly 50% of the island is greenery!). Most remarkably, the city state has plans to grow to nearly double the island’s original size by 2030, through land-filling processes that have already created spaces like Marina Bay.
According to National Geographic, Singapore’s vision for sustainability and livability comes from Cheong Koon Hean, the first woman to lead Singapore’s urban development agency. Cheong describes Singapore’s commitment to livable density as merging convenience and building with parks and recreational facilities.
While Singapore is definitely the greenest jewel in the Asian worldwide crown, other wealthy locations of Asian concentration also never cease to amaze. Macau SAR, an autonomous region in East Asia, is the richest country in Asia by GDP, according to worldatlas.com, as well as being the most densely populated region on Earth. The region has a thriving tourist economy and boosts international trade for the area. The second-richest nation in Asia is Qatar, a country located on the Arabian Peninsula’s northeastern coast. Qatar’s economy, which is based on on petrol and natural gas exports, is slowly looking to ease dependency on oil. Hong Kong is Asia’s fourth-richest nation, following Singapore at third, and is one of the world’s top international financial centers.
Finally, we have our very own Bay Area, California. The U.S.’s Asian-American population has grown faster than any other ethnic group over the last two decades, and the Bay Area is a prime example. Silicon Valley’s numerous tech jobs attract Asian immigrants, whose children are competitive in school and gravitate toward engineering jobs. Now, as reported in a recent study published by The Guardian, if it were its own country, Silicon Valley, a hotbed of Asian culture and success, would be one of the wealthiest in the world.
Anishi Patel is a junior at Saratoga High School with a passion for creative writing. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing awards and is in or forthcoming in Skipping Stones Magazine, The Blue Marble Review, and 805 Lit, among others. Anishi will be an Editor-in-Chief for the Saratoga Falcon during the 2019-20 school year, and she is also an editor for her school’s literary magazine, Soundings, and the Siblíní Journal.