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Home Publications Reports Unions and Upward Mobility for Asian American and Pacific Islander Workers

Unions and Upward Mobility for Asian American and Pacific Islander Workers

January 2011, John Schmitt, Hye Jin Rho and Nicole Woo

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are, with Latinos, the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. workforce. In 2009, Asian American and Pacific Islanders were one of every 20 U.S. workers, up from one in 40 only 20 years earlier. AAPIs, again with Latinos, are also the fastest growing ethnic group in organized labor, accounting for just under one-in-20 unionized workers in 2009. Even after controlling for workers’ characteristics including age, education level, industry, and state, unionized AAPI workers earn about 14.3 percent more than non-unionized AAPI workers with similar characteristics. This translates to about $2.50 per hour more for unionized AAPI workers. Unionized AAPI workers are also about 16 percentage points more likely to have health insurance and about 22 percentage points more likely to have a retirement plan than their non-union counterparts.

The advantages of unionization are greatest for AAPI workers in the 15 lowest-paying occupations. Unionized AAPI workers in these low-wage occupations earn about 20.1 percent more than AAPI workers with identical characteristics in the same generally low-wage occupations. Unionized AAPI workers in low-wage occupations are also about 23.2 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 26.3 percentage points more likely to have a retirement plan through their job.

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