The Quest for Education Will Transform an Entire Generation

January 10, 2017

Asian-Americans are the country’s most educated, most affluent, and fastest-growing minority group — the Asian-American population is expected to increase 115% to 34.3 million by 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau), and projected to overtake Hispanics as the largest immigrant group in about 40 years (Pew Research Center). For most Asian-Americans, there is a belief that higher education leads to financial success, and thus family security, which drives a push to college enrollment. In fact, Asian-Americans have become among the most educated in the United States: 52% of Asians have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, compared to 31% of the total population (U.S. Census Bureau, age 25+).

What’s even more impressive is where Asian-Americans are earning their degrees. More and more Asian-Americans are filling the classrooms of top-tier colleges in the United States, and thus, the profile of this immigrant population will skew even more educated and, presumably, more affluent. For instance, at MIT, Asian-Americans make up almost one quarter of the total student body (collegefactual.com), despite accounting for just 6% of the total U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau). This incredible rise in Asian-American graduates from the most prestigious schools coupled with the fact that Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in the country should send a signal to marketers that this demographic will continue to represent significant value as consumers.

The college age Asian-American population is growing at staggering rates, doubling over the last 20 years. The growth at elite universities across the U.S. is especially note-worthy. At the nation’s top colleges, Asian-American undergrads represent the largest minority, from 13% at Brown to 24% (vs at MIT (collegefactual.com). And Asian-American enrollment is showing no signs of slowing down. At Ivy League schools, the number of Asian-American freshmen increased significantly over the past two decades. At Harvard, the class of 2000 was 16.4% Asian-American, compared to the class of 2019 at 21.1%. At Yale, the percentage of Asian-American freshmen climbed from 17.2% to 21.9% during the same period. At Brown, the percentage leaped from 15% to 20%, and at Dartmouth, the Asian-American freshmen population doubled, from 9.9% to 19%. These are extraordinary numbers to begin with, and even more so considering that Asians, as previously stated, make up 6% of the total U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau)!

In addition to studying at top colleges, many Asian-American students are graduating with degrees associated with high earnings. The top ten majors for graduating Asian-American students were the following: Business Administration, Biology, Nursing, Psychology, Accounting, Economics, Finance, Political Science, Sociology, and Electrical Engineering. And, not surprisingly, over 30% of Bachelor’s Degrees majoring in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) subjects were received by Asians (National Center for Education Statistics).

What does it mean when the nation’s top colleges have a graduating class every year that is 20 to 25% Asian American? For brands seeking a young, fast-growing, educated and affluent consumer group, there is no question Asians represent an untapped market. For companies seeking the best talent, and that want to appeal to future leaders and influencers would also do well to grow their brands with the Asian segment.

Asian American millennials and post-millennials are set to have tremendous influence in the marketplace. Just look at the current buying power of Asian-Americans. Asian-Americans have the third-largest spending power of all multicultural groups, at $825 billion; which is greater than the economies of all but 17 countries. Their current buying power is expected to increase 32% to $1.1 trillion by 2020 (Selig Center for Economic Growth, The Multicultural Economy 2015). One reason for this projection is the unprecedented growth of a generation of highly-educated Asian-Americans who chase a super-sized American dream.