Measuring the Urban Wage Premium of Asian American Subgroups

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This paper consists of two chapters that explore the relationship between metropolitan status and wage levels of Asian Americans. The first chapter introduces the large dispersion in socioeconomic characteristics of Asian Americans when categorized by origin subgroup. Then, using a similar methodology used in Glaeser & Maré (2001), I examine the extent to which residing in a metropolitan area affects hourly wage across twenty Asian national origin subgroups. The second chapter then focuses on the Burmese population, identifying their geographical location and ethnic communities/enclaves. Then, using the population’s top ten most populated metropolitan areas, I extend the model used in the previous chapter to focus specifically at the intra-urban wage gradients within the Burmese American population. The first section is motivated by 1) the empirical portrayal of Asian Americans as a monolithic group that overall attains high levels of socioeconomic status and 2) as a result, urban economics empirical models that control for major race (White, Black, Asian, Hispanic) might not pick up the large differences within each race. This chapter firstly provides descriptive statistics about the socioeconomic heterogeneity within the Asian American population using IPUMS American Community Survey data from 2004 -2019. Then, using similar techniques used in Glaeser & Maré (2001), I use the survey data to estimate a regression model to measure the urban premium of each Asian American subgroup. The model first compares Asian American workers living in a metropolitan area to their non-metropolitan counterparts. Then, the model looks at the urban wage premium when metropolitan status is further broken down into 5 categories instead of 2. The results are consistent with previous literature for a significant portion of Asian subgroups, such that individuals living in a metropolitan area make roughly 20% higher wages than those not living in a metropolitan area, controlling for demographic characteristics such as age, sex, education, and citizenship. However, by disaggregating the Asian population by subgroups, it brought to light 7 out of the 20 groups seeming to have little to no urban premium on wages. Similarly, in the second variation with 5 metropolitan status categories, while most Asian subgroups living in the principal city of the metropolitan area have a slightly lower urban premium on wages compared to those not in the principal city but within the metropolitan area, which is consistent with previous findings, there are certain subgroups that seem to not experience similar wage differentials. The second chapter shifts to explore the spatial variation of the Burmese American population, one of the Asian subgroups that did not demonstrate consistent findings with previous literature. Motivated by the absence of empirical research focusing on the Burmese American population, this chapter displays the spatial composition of Burmese communities in the United States to identify the most populated cities, states, metropolitan areas and census tracts. Then, I explore the intra-urban relationship between wages and distance from the center of business district (CBD) across the top 5 most populated metropolitan areas of Burmese Americans. The findings suggest a positive correlation between distance from the CBD and wages for metropolitan areas New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas, whereas San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have statistically insignificant relationships between distance from the CBD and wages.

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Brooks, Nancy

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Carruthers, John

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Regional Science

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M.S., Regional Science

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Master of Science

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Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International


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