AAC Journal – Vol. 1, Issue 2: Reliance on Family Support in Immigrant and Low-Income AAPI Communities

Reliance on Family Support in Immigrant and Low-Income AAPI Communities

By Johanna Arguello-Garcia

The pandemic has exposed the ways different communities have struggled to survive financially. It has also revealed the support systems, weak or strong, that communities use in times of crisis. These support systems are important because they give insights on ways to improve the financial stability of diverse communities. They can lead us to understand the cultural component of financial support for our policymakers to develop more inclusive government policies.

Within the AAPI community, a common support system is relying on family members and friends for financial advice and support. This is especially prevalent in AAPI immigrant and low-income communities that encounter a lack of financial services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate to them. When AAPI immigrants are faced with the U.S. system of government and assistance, they encounter language and cultural barriers that preclude them from confidently seeking the assistance they need.

This is fairly common among older senior AAPI immigrants who may not speak English. In 2019, a study by Nam et al. titled Financial Capability and Economic Security among Lower-Income Older Asian Immigrants found that in Los Angeles, California, many elderly Asian immigrants had no familiarity with the U.S. financial system.[1] Additionally, the study showed that many of them did not plan for retirement to receive Social Security benefits and ended up applying for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which kept beneficiaries living under the poverty line.

The study proceeded to show how these individuals navigate these challenges. It was shown that the older Asian immigrants rely on their family members due to a mix of financial struggle and cultural factors. An American Bar Association article titled “Asian American Older Adults in the US: on a sense belonging and care” expanded on the findings through a conversation about filial piety.[2] Asian Americans value filial piety, the responsibility of the children to take care of their parents when they are older. However, in today’s economic climate, it is now common for younger generations in the U.S. to struggle financially just like the older generations of their family. At some point, a financial reliance on family members may not be beneficial, especially among low-income AAPI immigrant families.

The important Scrimping + Saving report by the National CAPACD on “financial access, attitudes and behaviors of low and moderate-income Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders” gives us more insight into the reasons for the high prevalence of relying on family members and friends for financial support or advice in the AAPI community. Although more research is needed on the role of family and friends in financial decisions in the AAPI community, the report shows that the practice signals a lack of clearly accessible financial assistance, translation services, and most importantly a lack of trust in the U.S. system. More importantly, the Scrimping + Saving report study also showed that non-profit community-based services were underutilized.

Some suggestions for improvement may include providing more translation services and assistance in government agencies, websites, and programs. Additionally, non-profit organizations should unite and build coalitions to bring awareness to the often overlooked AAPI immigrant community as well as AAPI low-income individuals. This is important to prevent the English classes and translation services at non-profits like ours from going underutilized.


[1] Nam Y, Sherraden MS, Huang J, Lee EJ, Keovisai M. Financial Capability and Economic Security among Low-Income Older Asian Immigrants: Lessons from Qualitative Interviews. Soc Work. 2019 Jul 2;64(3):224-232.

[2]Lo Daniel, “Asian American Older Adults in the US: on a sense belonging and care,” American Bar Association. https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/law_aging/bif-vol-43-issue5.pdf

About The Author: Johanna was an administrative intern at AAC-CSEBRI in the summer of 2022. You can find her bio here