IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Most Asian Americans in NYC adopted different behaviors out of fear of anti-Asian hate, new study shows

Asian Americans in the city adopted at least one “avoidance behavior,” like not taking public transit or speaking their native tongue, especially younger AAPIs.
Pedestrians in the Chinatown neighborhood of New York
Eilon Paz / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

A majority of  Asian Americans living in New York City have altered aspects of their lives to prevent being the target of an anti-Asian incident, according to a new study released Thursday. 

Three-quarters of Asian Americans in the city have adopted at least one “avoidance behavior,” which includes not taking public transit or speaking in their native tongue, the survey, conducted by nonprofit The Asian American Foundation, found. Younger Asian Americans tended to be more likely to say they adapted their behavior. 

“Younger Asian Americans — many have grown up here in the U.S. — have the language and the cultural skills to adapt and become ‘more mainstream.’ It’s what they feel like they need to do to avoid bullying in schools and other attacks,” said Norman Chen, the organization’s CEO. “In the short term, maybe that’s saving them from potential violence and attacks, but in the long run, reducing who they are. We need to find better solutions.” 

For the study, TAAF researchers surveyed 1,000 NYC-based Asian Americans, ages 16 and up, on the subject of public safety between Nov. 30 and Dec. 19, 2023. The surveys were conducted over the phone and online in English, Chinese, Korean and Bangla. 

Researchers found that during the time period, 36% of respondents feared being verbally or physically attacked due to their race, and 48% avoided going out late at night, with an even higher percentage of women reporting they do so. Forty-one percent of Asian American New Yorkers also refrained from taking public transit. 

“That has a huge effect on people’s mental health, on their livelihood and on their work,” Chen said. “It’s something very concerning.” 

The report also found that 17% of Asian Americans in New York City said they refrained from speaking their native tongue in public. 

“The fact we have to … be on guard all the time when we’re outside and hide our culture, hide our identity, and not speak the language that we perhaps want to speak — that’s a real step backwards for us in our community,” Chen said.  

According to the survey, public safety is the top issue for Asian American New Yorkers, with 78% of respondents saying it was either a “major problem” or “somewhat of a problem.” When asked about their experiences with anti-Asian hate incidents — defined as insults, harassments, threats or a physical attack — about half of survey respondents said they were targeted in 2023 due to their race or ethnicity. And 1 in 5 reported experiencing physical attacks or assaults in that year. However, this includes attacks that were not necessarily reported crimes. 

“The fact that people may perceive that this crisis has diminished really minimizes the truth that there’s just still rampant levels of anti-Asian hatred and violence still going on in the city,” Chen said. 

The TAAF report shows a departure from the dramatic downward trend seen in crime data against Asian Americans collected by the New York Police Department. In 2022, according to NYPD data, there were 82 hate crimes targeting Asian Americans, and  the next year, the number decreased by almost half, at 45. 

Sruthi Chandrasekaran, director of data & research at TAAF, said the disparities are likely due, in part, to the way in which the NYPD records crimes — which unlike incidents, require a high threshold to meet. The study may also have featured higher numbers because it was conducted in several languages, accessing more harder-to-reach populations like older New Yorkers, immigrants and first generation Asian Americans, she said. 

Additionally, many Asian Americans feel uncomfortable with reporting their experiences, Chandrasekaran said, noting that 54% of respondents did not report to “anyone at all.” 

“Asian Americans may also feel that what is happening to them is an isolated incident —  they may have felt more of an impetus to report during COVID because they were seeing and hearing and experiencing anti-Asian hate directed at them and others in their community,” Chandrasekaran said in an email. “With time, this issue has gotten less attention, which may lead people, including Asian Americans themselves, to think it is an isolated incident and may not warrant reporting.”