Today Is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Equal Pay Day

Supermajority Education Fund

February 11, 2020

Today is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Equal Pay Day. While National Equal Pay Day on March 31 recognizes the gender pay gap between all American men and women, today marks the point at which AAPI women must work to earn what the average white man earned in the previous year. The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) reports that while on average AAPI women make 90 cents to every white man’s dollar when the data is disaggregated, AAPI women actually made a range of wages based on their ethnic subgroup, some of which were as low as 50 cents per dollar. 

According to data from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), for instance, in 2018, Nepalese and Burmese women earned, on average, only 50 and 52 cents, respectively, for every dollar white and non-Hispanic men made. Pacific Islander women, on the whole, make 64 cents to the dollar, while the average Asian American woman made 87 cents to the dollar, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). 

The EPI also notes that the overall wage gap of 90 cents is relatively small compared to the gaps women of other backgrounds experience because Asian American women tend to have higher levels of educational attainment than white men. That considered, the gap should actually be much smaller—white men are making more than women who have more education than they do. 

Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of NAPAWF, told Supermajority News that the well-known stereotype about Asian Americans—that they all come from high-achieving families that put a lot of pressure on them to go to good universities and colleges—only hurts the visibility of the wage gap within the community. 

“It’s a persistent myth that all Asians are the same, and we’re all high-achieving with stable incomes. The lived experiences of millions of AAPI women show that this isn’t the case,” she said. “On a day when we acknowledge the long-standing inequality of the wage gap, we have to also recognize the range in the way AAPI women and immigrants experience it and call for the support and resources that would help us all support our families.”  

Largely, what hurts the AAPI community is what is known as the “model minority myth,” which is the idea that all people from the same racial group are the same. That myth in the context of Asian Americans, as Choimorrow notes, is furthered by the assumption that all Asians come from similar backgrounds, are raised the same way, and have the same financial needs. 

In a press release, the NAPAWF notes that Asian American women are actually “overrepresented in the most poorly paid jobs in the country” and are part of the immigrant community that struggles to afford healthcare in America. 

“We’re working to shatter this myth and are calling for the resources that would help AAPI and immigrant women get affordable health care or support our families,” Choimorrow said in the press release.