Where They Over-Index: Capturing the Buying Power of Asian Americans

August 23, 2017

As the fastest-growing population group in the country, Asian Americans continue to expand their footprint and create significant impact on every consumer category.

Over the last decade, the influx of immigrants of various Asian nationalities has led to an overall increase of Asian American population by 25%.[1] Today, there are 20.5 million Asian Americans, which represents about 6% of the total U.S. population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, this number will reach 25.7 million by 2019. The same study also projects that by 2055, the Asian Americans population will outnumber Hispanics as the largest immigrant group[2].

With such a growth trend, Asian Americans should be the centerpiece of any marketer’s growth strategy.

What do we need to know about the Asian American consumer?

Who are they?
Asian Americans are considered one of the most diverse racial groups. Among more than 40 nationalities, Chinese are the largest group, which represents 20% of the Asian American population. It is followed by South-Asian Indians (17%), Filipinos (16%), Vietnamese (9%), Koreans (9%), and Japanese (6%).[3]

Where are they?
According to US Census Bureau, 69% of the Asian Americans reside in 16 metropolitan cities, with New York and Los Angeles as the two most popular destinations for recent immigrants.[4]


Asian Americans are among the most affluent and highly educated immigrant population in the United States
The focus on education is likely one of the biggest drivers of Asian American wealth. In 2015, about 59% Asians had a college degree, compared to about 38% of the overall population.[5] The investment in education seems to be a unifying theme across Asian American consumer groups.

Asian Americans are also the wealthiest segment of the U.S. population on a per-household basis. With a household median income of $74,245, the median Asian American household income is 38% greater than the national median income of $53,889.[6]

According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, they currently have an estimated buying power of $825 billion. It is expected to grow to $1.1 trillion (6.7% of total U.S. buying power) in 2020.[7]

Industries & categories in which Asian American spend more on

Asian Americans represent one of the fastest-growing, highest-income, and most-educated population segments in the U.S. As a result, this consumer group should be the centerpiece of any marketer’s growth strategy. In the following, we will list out the top categories that Asian Americans over-index on, and explore the reasons behind such consumer behaviors.

If marketers and companies want to be successful, it is imperative they develop growth strategies that account for Asian Americans’ diverse ethnicities to better resonate with the cultural nuances of this unique multicultural community,” said Betty Lo, Vice President, Community Alliances & Consumer Engagement, Nielsen. “This segment not only has culturally specific tastes and preferences, but also buying behaviors that are unique to geographic regions.”


Food is key for cultural bonding in the Asian-American community. The group also views healthy food consumption as the primary pathway to health and beauty. As a result, this group significantly over-indexes on the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, baked goods, Prepared foods, coffee and other fresh items[8].

  • 85% of Asian Americans agree that they try to eat healthy and pay attention to their nutrition
  • 79% of Asian Americans agree they prefer cooking with fresh food rather than canned or frozen
  • 71% agree that they rarely eat frozen dinners
  • 65% of Asian Americans say they try to buy foods grown or produced locally in the region where they live

When comparing with the general population, on average[9]:

  • Asian Americans purchase 69% more fresh seafood than the total population.
  • They buy organic foods at a rate 52% higher
  • They also purchase 27% more fresh juices



Asian Americans over-index the general population for buying baby products, with a 70% higher rate in the baby needs category and 30% higher in the disposable diapers category[10]. When asked if they plan to have a baby in the next 12 months, Asian- American respondents said “yes” at a 57% higher rate than the total population[11].

Asian American shoppers also over-index in recyclable and eco-friendly products. The group would pay more for eco-friendly products at a rate 42% higher than the total population [12]:

  • 77% say they recycle their glass, paper and plastic (11% higher than the total population)
  • 55% say they buy natural products because they are concerned about the environment
  • 52% feel they are more environmentally conscious than most (13% higher than the total population)


Asian Americans tend to have an appetite for the best and the latest electronic goods. Recognized as early adopters, they gravitate toward the most innovative products, often acting as trendsetters in the category.

This consumer group outpaces the general population on ownership of the latest technology platforms in all regions of the country, with multimedia device ownership standing out particularly high[13]:

  • While its electronic device ownership is strong in all regions, the segment group outpaces the general market in the South, where they own 10% more smartphones, 18% more home computers, and 22% more tablets than the general population.
  • 76% of Asian American households own tablets (18% higher than the general population)
  • 92% of Asian American households own computers (12% higher than the general population)

According to Nielsen’s report, Asian American Women: Digitally Fluent with an Intercultural Mindset:

  • Asian American women have the highest smartphone penetration of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S.
  • Asian American women over-index against the total population for computer, tablet and video game ownership



70% of Asian American consumers use smartphones (highest usage among any other segment groups) to browse daily news, interact with friends through mobile messaging apps, and even frequently make personal purchases through mobile applications[14].

As 69% of Asian Americans are first generation, foreign-born, immigrants, the ways in which they stay connected to their home countries and to friends and family are uniquely Asian[15]. There is a high demand for international calling, and messenging apps such as Kakao Talk, WhatsApp, Line and WeChat. While universal social networks such as Facebook are popular, Asian-centric options such as Weibo are also widely used. Some of the most popular social media platforms in Asian-American community:

Kakao Talk


According to Euromonitor, Asian consumers remain the vital driver for the growth of international luxury brands through 2019. While Chinese shoppers account for 31% of the $273 billion global personal luxury goods market, the US is the biggest market outside of Asia[16].

This particular consumer group tends to believe the right brands indicate social status, symbolize achievement and wealth,” explains Jeannie Yuen, President/CEO of APartnership, a New York-based multicultural ad agency that focuses on Asian-American consumers. “Marketers who connect the idea of buying the luxury brands with personal identity, will be able to leverage the brand value and justify the price point.”

39% of Asian American women are entrepreneurs, and 46% say their goal is to make it to the top of their profession. More importantly, 76% of Asian American women will pay for a brand they trust, even if it is slightly more expensive. When it comes to spending, they’re not afraid to demand brands and products that support and speak to their values or personal goals.[17]



Asian Americans are 43% more likely than the general population to travel abroad[18]. About 57% of Asian Americans have taken a trip outside the continental United States during the past three years and are 46% more likely to have traveled in first class on foreign trips[19].

The consumer group also significantly over-indexes on the automobile industry. They spend on average $2252 annually, while the total population spends only about $1956[20]. About 23% of Asian Americans bought cars priced over $30,000, compared to 19% of the general population. That higher price point is reflected in the vehicle features that they prefer. Asian Americans were 13% more likely to pick “luxury and style” and “green and trendy” as the description of their ideal.


Family is what matters most to Asian Americans. For a lot of the parents in this segment group, they work hard to ensure that their children have all they need to become successful adults. They have also notably devote substantial resources to helping family members:[21]

  • 22% of Asian American parents say providing college tuition for their children is highly important to them (14% of parents in the general population)
  • 25% say taking care of family members financially is a priority (15% of the general population)
  • 24% of Asian Americans consider home ownership also is a top goal (17% of the general population)

As a result, Asian Americans own a broad variety of financial products. Their consumer behaviors in this category are similar to the ones of the general population. However, they also seem to favor two particular investment products[22]:

1) Asian Americans are more likely than the general population to own individual stocks

  • 29% of Asian Americans own individual stocks, compared with 23% of the general population.
  • 26% of Asian Americans say they have purchased or traded stocks online in the past year, compared with 16% of the general population[23]

2) Higher homeownership rates and mortgage balances

Asian Americans strive for the ultimate form of security – homeownership. As a result, the segment group has higher ownership rates than most ethnicities[24].

  • 59% for Asians
  • 46% for Hispanics
  • 44% for Blacks
  • 54% for householders of another race


With higher median home values, Asian Americans are likely to spend more on their mortgage. As a result, financial centers should look to market their mortgage products.

In the East and West where the majority of them reside, Asian Americans tend to have higher mortgage balances (7% have mortgage balances of $500,000 or more, versus less than 1% of the general population)[25].


Conclusion: How to harness the buying power of Asian American consumers?

If Asian Americans were a country, their spending would represent the eighteenth largest economy in the world[26].

However, marketers remain hesitant to include Asian American consumers in their multicultural marketing efforts. This is likely due to the diversity of the segment population, which is made up of different nationalities, languages, heritage and traditions.

Ethnicities like the Hispanic and African-American population share only one language so it’s easier for marketers to come up with a more universal message. As a result, sometimes it becomes convenient to only consider Asian-American consumer group when there’s leftover in the budget,’ says Jeannie Yuen, CEO of APartnership, a New York-based multicultural ad agency that focuses on Asian-American consumers.

The Asian-American consumer market has tremendous potential which should always be included in any multicultural marketing campaigns,’ Yuen explains. ‘It usually requires a more complicated strategy with a message that is also culturally sensitive. There are agencies that have such unique set of experience, knowledge and resources. Our firm is one of a few in the country that provide this type of service.’



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We are a team of multicultural advertising experts who want to help you win Asian American customers, the fastest growing consumer group in the U.S.  APARTNERSHIP is a creatively driven brand communications agency that connects products and services to Asian American consumers through cultural and linguistic insights. We work with you to understand your marketing assets to create effective and efficient digital and traditional advertising outreach to America’s new source of growth.



[1] ‘Asian-Americans: Culturally Diverse and Expanding Their Footprint’, The Asian-American 2016 Report, Nielsen

[2] 2015 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] 2015 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau

[7] ‘Asians, Hispanics driving U.S. economy forward: 2015 Multicultural Economy Report Reveals Trends in US Spending’, UGA Today

[8] ‘Asian-Americans: Culturally Diverse and Expanding Their Footprint’, The Asian-American 2016 Report, Nielsen

[9] Ibid

[10] Nielsen Homescan, Total Shopper View, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending December 26, 2015

[11] ‘Asian-Americans: Culturally Diverse and Expanding Their Footprint’, The Asian-American 2016 Report, Nielsen

[12] ‘Asian-Americans: Culturally Diverse and Expanding Their Footprint’, The Asian-American 2016 Report, Nielsen

[13] ‘Asian-Americans: Culturally Diverse and Expanding Their Footprint’, The Asian-American 2016 Report, Nielsen

[14] ‘Asian-Americans: Culturally Diverse and Expanding Their Footprint’, The Asian-American 2016 Report, Nielsen

[15] 2015 American Community Survey (ACS)

[16] ‘Luxury brands shower attention on well-heeled Chinese students in U.S.’, Reuters

[17] “Asian American Women: Digitally Fluent with an Intercultural Mindset”, Nielsen

[18] 2012 GfK MRI Survey of the American Consumer

[19] Nielsen, Scarborough Research, USA+; 2013 Release 1.

[20] 2015 Consumer Expenditure Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics

[21] “Asian American Financial Experience”. 2016 Prudential Research

[22] Ibid

[23] Ibid

[24] “Housing Demand: Demographics and the Numbers behind the Coming Multi-Million Increase in Households”. Mortgage Bankers Association July 2015

[25] “Asian American Financial Experience”. 2016 Prudential Research

[26] ‘State of the Asian American Consumer: Growing market, growing impact’, Nielson 2012