[NBC] For Asian Americans, wealth stereotypes don’t fit reality

March 17, 2015
(Courtesy of NBC News)

(Courtesy of NBC News)


When Rosa Chen first heard one of her college classmates ask her if she was rich, she says she didn’t quite understand where the idea was coming from. “Everyone I grew up around was struggling economically like us,” she said.

Chen, 19, grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown, one of three daughters of immigrants. Her father is a restaurant cook and her mother does not work because of a disability.

“I was surprised that people would see me as rich,” said Chen, who is also a community activist in her hometown. “There was a stereotype about Asians being rich because they live here in San Francisco; like we must be made of money.”

Chen is studying communications at the University of San Francisco, a school she says she could only afford to attend because of the sizable financial aid package she was offered. It was there, in college, where she was first confronted with the durable and simplistic cultural notion about Asian-American class status – an idea, opinion researchers say, has taken firm hold in popular opinion.