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COLUMN ONE : Few Viet Exiles Find U.S.Riches : Refugees have forged an enduring stereotype of economic and intellectual overachievement. But most live in poverty, with significant language and cultural handicaps.

April 29, 1990|SONNI EFRON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vietnamese By The Numbers A Study in Diversity Indochinese refugees, like other Americans, are an extremely diverse group that includes rich and poor, former generals and former peasants, self-sufficient and welfare-dependent, high school dropouts and class valedictorians. Education White dropout rates among Vietnamese youths were higher than for whties, one study found, those who stayed in school had better grades than whites and were more likely to be class valedictorians. Academic Performance Percentage of Vietnamese in San Diego high schools in 1986: 7% Percentage of all valedictorian and salutatorians who were Vietnamese: 23% Drop-Out Rates by Ethnic Group Pacific Islander: 17.1% Latino: 14.1% Cambodian: 13.65 Black: 12.3% Vietnamese: 10.7% White Anglo: 10.0% Chinese, Korean, Japanese: 6.2% Source: Indochinese Health and Adaptation Research Project, 1986 survey of 4,312 graduating seniors in 11 San Diego high schools. Juvenile Delinquents Refugee youths who get into trouble with the police are usually later arrivals who speak little English, have trouble in school and have come to this country without one or both parents, a 1984 examination of San Diego police files showed. Time in U.S. 82% arrived after 1977 18% arrived before 1977 Command of English 61% had a poor command of English 39% spoke some English (None had excellent command of English) Family Structure of Delinquents 41% lived with both parents or step-parents 59% lived without one or both parents (45% of white delinquents lived with both parents or step-parents) Of the 59% who lived without one or both parents: 22% lived with a single parent (43% of whites, 44% of other minorities did) 37% lived with other guardians or foster parents (28% of whites, 15% of other minorities did) Source: IHARP Working on English English proficiency, or lack of it, can say a lot about a refugee's chances of success in the work force. Only 10% of those who speak no English, for example, have jobs. Labor Force Participation Speaks no English: 10.2% A little English: 29.6% Speaks English well: 54.4% Fluent in English: 58.4% Unemployment Speaks no English: 12.1% A little English: 9l3% Speaks English well: 5.3% Fluent in English: 8.7% Average Weekly Wages Speaks no English: $170 A little English: $205 Speaks English well: $226 Fluent in English: $248 Note: Labor force and unemployment figures refer to all household members 16 years of age and older; average weekly wages refer to surveyed refugees 16 years of age and above who were empolyed. Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1988 Labor Force Participation Refugees who arrived in 1975 got jobs sooner, worked at higher rates and earned more after five years than did later refugees. A small percentage of refugees appear to have withdrawn from the work force altogether. Percentage of Arrivals in the Work Force: 1975 arrivals in work force in 1980: 63% 1980 arrivals in work force in 1985: 56% 1983 arrivals in work force in 1984: 42% Source: U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement Welfare Dependency Welfare dependency is declining, but more than half of all California refugees remain dependent. Refugees on Aid: 1986 64% on aid 36% Self-supporting 1988 54% on aid 46% Self-supporting Source: California Dept. of Social Services and Demographic Research Unit, Dept. of Finance Infant Mortality Though pregnant Southeast Asian refugees recieve prenatal care much later than other women or not at all , they have a far lower infant mortality rate than whites. Researchers cite abstention from alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. Vietnamese-Americans have one of the world's lowest infant mortality rates. Infant Deaths Per 1,000 Live Births: Vietnamese: 5.5 Cambodian: 5.8 Japanese: 6.2 Chinese: 6.9 Latino: 7.3 Anglo White: 8.0 American Indian: 9.6 Black: 16.3 Percentage of Women Who Smoked: Vietnamese: 0% Americans: 33%Source: IHARP Legacy of War: Vietnamese in America The Vietnam Exodus 1. In April, 1975, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese flee south as coastal cities surrender. 2. U.S. Marines begin evacuating remaining Americans from Saigon. However, enemy shelling closes Tan Son Nhut Air Base, forcing evacuation by helicopter. 3. Gen. Duong Van Minh surrenders unconditionally on April 30 at 10:24 a.m. By then, more than 100,000 South Vietnamese had already fled. 4. In 1978, Vietnam invades Cambodia, and China invades Vietnam. Vietnam then expels its ethnic Chinese. The exodus of "boat people" begins. Life in the U.S. Most of the refugees who arrived in 1975 hailed from Vietnam's military, professional and social elite. They account for fewer than one-third of all refugees. Later arrivals tended to be rural, with less education and fewer skills, and have had far more trouble achieving economic self-sufficiency. Average Years of Education: 1975 arrivals: 11.9 1980-83 arrivals: 5.2 White Collar in Asia 1975 arrivals: 79% 1980-83 arrivals: 49% Farmers or Fishermen in Asia 1975 arrivals: 3% 1980-83 arrivals: 38% Living in Poverty in 1982 1975 arrivals: 25% 1980-83 arrivals: 90% Refugee Household Income in '86 1975 arrivals: $17,861 1980-83 arrivals: $12,907 Average U.S. Household Income in 1986: $17-$18,000 Southeast Asian Refugee Arrivals A total of 918,558 Southeast Asian refugees-567,600 of them Vietnamese-have arrived in the United States since 1975. More than 40% have settled in California. 1975: 130,000 War evacuees 1980: 167,000 Boat People 1989: 37,000 Source: Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (1989), California Dept. of Finance (1990). On Being Vietnamese in America

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