For decades, the data on median household incomes have shown the same, persistent racial disparities: Asians beating out whites at the top, while Hispanics and blacks hover near the bottom.
Asian Americans seem to offer proof that minorities can prosper — and even leapfrog whites — if they work hard and jump through the right hoops. For that reason, Asian Americans have often been invoked as a way to excuse the income gaps between whites and blacks or whites and Hispanics.
But why do typical Asian American households outearn typical white households? Like many statistics showing an Asian American advantage, this fact proves illusory upon closer examination. A common explanation is that Asian Americans are better educated. While that’s true, there’s another factor that can completely account for the income gap between Asians and whites.
It has to do with where people reside.
Prices and rents vary wildly in different parts of the country. The cost of living near Jonesboro, Ark., for instance, is about 18 percent below the national average, while the cost of living near San Francisco is about 21 percent above the national average.
White and African Americans are more likely to live in cheaper locales, while Asian and Hispanic Americans are more likely to live in pricier ones. The contrast between whites and Asians is particularly stark. Nearly 1 in 5 white Americans reside in rural counties, where a dollar goes a lot further. But 97 percent of Asian Americans live in or near a major city, where the cost of living is higher.
This is silly. East Asians around the world on average are better educated, more affluent and have stronger families and longer life spans than whites just as around the world whites on average are better educated, more affluent and have stronger families and longer life spans than blacks.
South-East Asians do not out-excel whites on average in education and income. Different groups of whites do better than other groups of whites. For instance, whites of Northern European origin tend to be better educated, more intelligent and more prosperous than white non-Jews of Eastern European and Southern European origins.