As a community of refugees and immigrants, the Southeast Asian American experience is rooted in both struggle and resilience. Resettled in low-income cities and neighborhoods, many Southeast Asian Americans found themselves integrating into communities with weak safety nets – struggling schools, high crime rates, and few economic opportunities, compounded by limited English skills and little knowledge on how to access resources.
Despite these challenges, Southeast Asian Americans blazed trails where none existed – growing strong community-based service organizations, speaking up for the rights and contributions of refugees and new Americans, and nurturing emerging leaders who became celebrated artists, business leaders, community advocates, and elected officials.
Despite these accomplishments, the majority of Southeast Asian Americans continue to face generational poverty and socioeconomic challenges. Today, over 18% of Cambodian families and 27% of Hmong families still live below the poverty line, compared with 11% of U.S. families overall. Additionally, over 34% of Laotian and Hmong students do not complete high school, compared with 13% of the general population.