CAAL-MN Discusses Redefining Wealth in Recently Released Report

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The Coalition of Asian American Leaders-Minnesota (CAAL-MN) recently released a report, “Redefining Wealth Through Communal and Cultural Assets,” which aims to analyze definitions and present nuanced understandings of wealth across various Asian ethnic groups in Minnesota.  

Michelle Chang (she/her/they/them), Lead Organizer for CAAL-MN, sat down with The Quilt editorial team to discuss the report. “I think it’s long overdue for this to be released, and to be frank, I know that CAAL wanted to create this report because we didn’t see it anywhere else for Asian Minnesotans,” said Chang. 

The report seeks to build a deeper understanding of what wealth means to Asian Minnesotans and to understand more deeply the ways in which different Asian communities define wealth, given cultural factors, community factors, and definitions of economic well-being. 

11 recommendations are called for in the report, overall. More details on each recommendation can be read about in the report and the executive summary, linked below. The recommendations are: 

  1. Collect and use disaggregated data in order to better understand the lived experiences of specific Asian communities. 
  2. Conduct both qualitative and quantitative research related to Covid-19 in Minnesota’s Asian populations. 
  3. Use CAAL’s research to redesign programming and services. 
  4. Work directly with specific Asian communities to identify specific indicators in order to better understand wealth and economic well-being in specific Asian communities. 
  5. Acknowledge and respect collective resource-sharing. 
  6. Identify cultural assets and integrate those assets into financial practices and policies of economic institutions and organizations. 
  7. Invest in multifamily housing.
  8. Do deeper research into specific Asian communities and subgroups.
  9. Embrace diverse Asian American voices in policymaking. 
  10. Provide sustainable, long-term funding for Asian-American community organizations. 
  11. Ensure that program frameworks and metrics use family-based perspectives and not individual metrics. 

“One of the key findings in this report is that for Asian Minnesotans, we build wealth in different ways, or we see wealth in different ways. We see wealth as a collective, we see our community as wealth. I’ll give you an example. When I was going to college my parents invested in my education because they knew that was an investment, and that was building wealth for them, because they have never had an education before. So they knew that putting me through college, putting me through higher education, would put me on a path to prosperity,” said Chang. 

The report comes as part of CAAL’s continued work on data disaggregation.  

Aggregated data is defined as data that is organized around a single characteristic. Disaggregated data is data that is broken down into smaller segments. 

“Asian households have the highest average median income, at 66,780, and it’s higher than the overall population and white households. But if you look deeper into that data within the Asian community, Asian Indians have nearly four times as much household income as the Burmese, so that’s another example of why this report is so important, because we look into these nuances that are often left unseen,” said Chang. 

Chang also noted that the report is meant to dispel the harmful model minority myth that presents Asian communities as the standard for other racialized and minoritized communities due to a perception of universal success among Asian communities without accounting for the nuances of struggle and racial disparities faced within specific Asian ethnic groups, and to ensure that Asian Minnesotans from diverse communities have a space at policy-making tables.

In discussing how the report can be a tool for solidarity among different racial and ethnic groups, Chang noted that the report encourages other groups to seek out disaggregated data within their communities to uncover the cultural nuances and different identities within their communities as ways to challenge systems to think about all of our communities in more complex ways, especially when it comes to designing policies. And to also ask the question, What does wealth look like in our communities and how can we use our assets and the ways we define wealth in our communities to be in solidarity with each other?  

“Our hope is that our report will inspire more institutions to collect disaggregated data and to adopt the 11 recommendations that came out of our report,” concluded  Chang. 

The report, released in March 2021, was published in partnership with the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs. 

The Report can be read at CAAL’s website, and the Executive Summary can be found there as well.

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