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Asian American Spending Habits
(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 04:56:27 PM)

o aspect of the Asian American experience seems more fractured than notions about our spending habits. Images of Rolex-wearing, Gucci-toting highrollers driving gleaming new Beemers and Benzes duke it out, in the American psyche, with images of inveterate pennypinchers wearing bargain-basement rags and boiling up ramens in motel rooms.
Fireplace Couple
Big spenders or pennypinchers?

     Both images are stereotypes. Both images have some socioeconomic basis.
     The percentage of AA living in poverly (defined as household income below $17,029 for a family of 4) was 10.7% in 1999*, significantly higher than the 7.7% rate for non-Hispanic Whites, albeit lower than for Blacks (23.6%) or Hispanics (22.8%). On the flip side, Asian American median household income was $51,205, 25.5% above the national median and even higher than the $44,366 median for non-Hispanic Whites.
     That means Asian Americans suffer the most extreme gap between the haves and the have-nots. It results from three key factors:
  1. the poverty of new immigrants;
  2. their remarkable acculturation and upward mobility over time; and
  3. the high college graduation rates of U.S.-educated AA (twice the national average).
     Does this mean that the pennypinchers are recent immigrants and the highrollers are U.S.-born? It isn't so simple.
     Turns out that within 10 years of their arrival, the majority of immigrant Asians move up into the middle- and upper-income brackets. Some of the Asians flaunting designers labels and driving status imports are the half-pints who had accompanied their parents on the transPacific crossing -- or the parents themselves. And some groups of U.S.-born Asians -- notably Japanese Americans -- show little inclination toward conspicuous consumption despite their relative affluence.
     So the apparently yawning abyss separating the AA haves from have-nots is actually spanned by a well-traveled bridge. Economics, it seems, isn't the only factor separating those AA who enjoy spending money and those who prefer to sock it away.
     So what social, cultural, economic and personal factors really separate Asian highrollers from pennypinchers? What, if anything, distinguishes Asian American spending habits from those of other Americans?
* The most recent year for which U.S. Census figures were released (as of Oct 2002).

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WHAT YOU SAY

[This page is closed to new input. --Ed.]
'Well of course, he drives a Honda…..he wouldn’t be able to bring home any dates no matter what car he drives since he doesn’t even have his own pad.'

conspicious spender,

This is full of hogwash...the dude is married. And for the guy who owns two luxury cars, well, he doesn't even have a gf. What does that tell you?

Perhaps you're one of those ABCs who have extremely high standards, and the elitist mentality.

Do you need your own pad and fancy cars to attract people of the opposite sex?
That is, maybe if you're trying to appeal to highly sophisticated and beautiful women.

'“Obnoxious” spenders exist in all colors.'

Well, this forum is about those Asians who fall into this category.
LSD
   Friday, October 18, 2002 at 07:36:02 (PDT)    [66.212.81.229]
LSD:

“Obnoxious” spenders exist in all colors.

Japanese Americans may display less inclination (though I have yet to witness this). If you believe this to be the case, the phenomenon is strangely American. After all, have you seen the LV toting, Chanel wearing, fake nail attaching, fake tanning girls of Japan? Crack open a magazine, if need be.

And this group of Americans (as we know), seems to assimilate in a smoother process.

Two examples don’t paint that big of a picture. You may not think it practical that a 28 year old owns two luxury cars. But who’s money is it? Yours, or his? You mentioned that your other friend drives a Honda and shares a home with his sisters. Well of course, he drives a Honda…..he wouldn’t be able to bring home any dates no matter what car he drives since he doesn’t even have his own pad.

Older affluent folks may see money in a different way if they were Old Money. If they came from New Money, they’d have likely done the same conspicuous spending in their youth.

Eunku: You don’t sound Chinese at all. No need to hide.
the conspicuous consumer
   Thursday, October 17, 2002 at 22:18:54 (PDT)    [64.130.204.9]
I think Chinese are the most flaunting of their wealth here in the U.S. Some affluent Chinese Americans like my parents are not and would cringe to even think of spending an extra dollar when they know they could save it elsewhere, then you've got people like my friends family who is also Chinese who buys a new car everywhere. Both families make +100 G's, my family saves much more though. We own a 250 G home and have two cars, an Accord and a Camry whereas my friends have two upper class benzes and beemers, porsche, and an escalade. This kinda flaunting is not just in the USA, it's global wherever the wealthy Chinese are. It's this kind of flaunting that doesn't surprise me that Southeast Asia's Chinese (the wealthiest minority in that region) is constantly being persecuted. They're sporting all the luxuries and controlling all the corporate wealth in their respective nations and they are still stuck within their cliques and clans, it's a no wonder why native Indonesians are constantly tormenting them. Maybe we affluent Chinese should learn something from the Japanese.
Eunku
   Thursday, October 17, 2002 at 15:13:13 (PDT)    [138.23.59.235]
I'm glad to see this topic is being addressed somewhere. In the City of Houston, one of Councilman Gordon Quan's biggest concern was the model minority myth which some of the spenders help perpetuate. His concern over it is that it prevents many below poverty level Asian Americans from getting Public assistance when they need it the most due to perceptions that "All Asians have plenty of money."

Furthermore, one of the reasons why many Asian American immigrants do so well academically and financially is because those who immigrate come from a background where education is highly valued. These same immigrants were often businessmen, doctors, lawyers and engineers back in their home country. They will struggle, work and save in order to get certified to work in their profession in the US, which in turn leads to a better income level and a better standard of living. As a result of this, their children are pushed hard to excel academically, which leads to stronger school performance, better college admissions, better profession choices and a high standard of living for them when they are out in the professional world.

In other words, a lot of these immigrants were from the upper strata of society back in Asia, which allows them to catapult up to the same strata of society in the US in time. There are a lot of poor uneducated Asians who come from families who do not value education or hard work who do not immigrate to the US. As a result, this tends to lead to some of the polarization of income levels among the Asian American community here in the US.
Hank Lewis
   Thursday, October 17, 2002 at 12:02:47 (PDT)    [161.159.4.35]
'It's only natural that their children grow up, excel in their careers, and become part of the noveau riche.'

Conspicious Spender,

Did you read this section?...

'And some groups of U.S.-born Asians -- notably Japanese Americans -- show little inclination toward conspicuous consumption despite their relative affluence.'

I think according to the US census, JAs are the most affluent Asian group, and its true many JAs don't flaunt their money like their Chinese and Korean counterparts.

I was referring to Asians who spend excessively to a point that is obnoxious...people who exclusively buy every brand name item you can possibly think of, and those who buy more than they need...ex. I know one Asian who is single, and he sports an Audi and a BMW! To be honest, do you think it's practical to own 2 fancy cars at the age of 28? I have another friend who is a network engineer at Cisco Systems, he makes over 100k, but his lifestyle is very modest and simple in comparision. He owns a home together with his sisters valued at 350K, and he drives a Honda. Despite his good income, he saves money like many working class immigrants.

Btw, some of this conspicuous spending has to do with youth. I think many older affluent folks see money in a different way.
LSD
   Wednesday, October 16, 2002 at 19:13:12 (PDT)    [12.88.97.244]
LSD:

It's not a matter of rebelling. It's being able to buy what you never had.

Most of those "stingy" Asian parents were immigrants to the U.S. What you call "stingy", is what they would consider as living within their own means.

It's only natural that their children grow up, excel in their careers, and become part of the noveau riche.
the conspicuous consumer
   Tuesday, October 15, 2002 at 23:06:23 (PDT)    [64.130.204.9]
Very difficult to answer...There are way too many specific factors to what really makes a person a spendthrift or a penny pincher.

AAs are either money flaunters or penny pinchers because of their upbringing, and their view of success in relation with the mainstream society.

Correct if I'm wrong...but I think stingy Asian parents turn their children into materialistic snobs. Being materialistic is then a sign of rebellion for parental control.

Another general factor is westernization or what we call assimilation. Some AAs believe heavy spending is a sign of being 'assimilated', the same applies to those FOBS who equate assimilation with consumption.
LSD
   Tuesday, October 15, 2002 at 17:31:29 (PDT)    [12.88.84.157]

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