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Job losses slam Asian-Americans in Illinois

The unemployment rate of Asian-Americans in Illinois jumped 200 percent between 2007 and 2010 -- more than any other racial group.

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Unemployment among Asian-Americans in Illinois jumped 200 percent between 2007 and 2010, more than any other racial group.

The statistic was included in a report on the changing demographics and political engagement of the minority population, released Thursday at a conference in downtown Chicago. Authors of the report said the finding undermines the notion that Asians are a “model minority,” a stereotype that often masks disparities between Asian-American nationalities in unemployment, educational attainment, and income.

“Even among researchers there’s a perception that Asian-Americans are disproportionately doing well,” said Daniel Ichinose of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. “But to see such tremendous increases in unemployment was striking, I think even for us who understand the community.” Ichinose helped author the report “A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the Midwest,” published by a coalition of civil rights organizations under the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.

The data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics don’t tell which Asian-American nationalities were most affected, nor what jobs they held. The growth also hides the fact that Asian-Americans still had lower unemployment rates than whites, blacks, and Latinos in each of those years.

In 2007, their unemployment rate was 2.4 percent, less than half the statewide average. In 2010, it had grown to 8.3 percent, still lower than the statewide average of 10.2 percent, and far lower than the rate for African-Americans, which stood at 17.8 percent, above whites and Latinos.

But Ichinose says the rapid increase shows that Asian-Americans have as much interest as any other racial group in programs that address unemployment in the Midwest. “I think what the data show is that the economic crisis is affecting all communities,” he said, “not just African-American and Latino communities. That Asian-Americans have a vested interest in programs that help address unemployment in the Midwest.”

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