Report shows San Francisco’s AAPI residents experience high poverty, chronic disease rates

Bed-ridden Bao Qi Mo, 85, in the single-resident occupancy (SRO) room he shares with his family in San Francisco's Chinatown. High poverty rates and over-crowding have led to a deterioration of living conditions for some of the city's Asian American residents.  (Photo credit: Brant Ward, The San Francisco Chronicle)
Bed-ridden Bao Qi Mo, 85, in the single-resident occupancy (SRO) room he shares with his family in San Francisco’s Chinatown. High poverty rates and over-crowding have led to a deterioration of living conditions for some of the city’s Asian American residents. (Photo credit: Brant Ward / The Chronicle)

Jessica Kwong (@JessicaGKwong) of the San Francisco Examiner summarizes a recent report issued by the Asian Pacific Islander Council titled “Asian and Pacific Islander Health and Wellbeing: A San Francisco Neighborhood Analysis”. The report published several findings regarding the city’s Asian American population that challenge the Model Minority Myth, which asserts that Asian Americans are by and large “doing fine”.

Contrary to stereotypes, the Asian Pacific Islander Council’s report reveals that in San Francisco, 14% of Asian Americans live in poverty — lower than other racial groups — but that the population size of poor Asian Americans has grown by 44% in the last few years. As  also reflected with an in-depth look at national AAPI unemployment trends, the unemployment rate for Asian Americans was also 1.5x greater than city-wide averages. Many of those impoverished Asian Americans live in San Francisco’s Chinatown, where over-crowding has led to appalling living conditions for some families who are forced to squeeze entire families into rooms designed for single residents. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that San Francisco’s Chinatown — an ethnic enclave just under 1.5 square miles in area — was home to over 100,000 Chinese Americans in 2000, or two-thirds of San Francisco’s total Chinese American population.

The over-crowding of poor Asian Americans in Chinatown has become a subsequent strain on local social services, and has also contributed to high rates of mental illness and other chronic diseases. Yet these social problems are rarely addressed in the larger discourse on the city’s Asian American population; instead, most residents assume that San Francisco’s Asian American population are comprised predominantly of the city’s wealthy elite.

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