Koreans in NYC: A Profile
BY Annie Wang
Between 2015 and 2020, the Korean1 population in NYC shrunk (-5.4%) faster than the City population (-0.6%). In contrast, the Asian2 population grew by 6.8%. No other Asian ethnic group in NYC is shrinking as quickly as the Korean population.
During this time, the Korean population moved away from Queens (-3.1 percentage points) and shifted into Brooklyn (+3.4 percentage points).
Compared to other Asian ethnic groups, the Korean population in NYC has the lowest proportion of children under 18 (14.8%). The share of seniors in the overall Korean population is growing: they now are 2.6 percentage points more of the total Korean population than in 2015.
Immigration, Citizenship, & Mobility
Of the total Korean population in NYC, 34.8% are US-born, 36.1% are naturalized citizens, and 29.1% are non-citizens. The proportion of Koreans with U.S. citizenship by birthright has gone up (+4.9 percentage points) while the proportion of non-citizens has gone down (-6.3 percentage points) since 2015. In contrast, most people in NYC became citizens by birthright (63.3%) and naturalization (20.9%). Some 15.8% of New Yorkers are non-citizens.
Only one-third (36.7%) of New Yorkers, in general, are foreign-born, while almost two-thirds (65.2%) of Korean residents are.
8.9% of foreign-born Koreans arrived in the City within five years of the survey, slightly lower than the City’s 9.5% estimate. However, only 2.0% of the overall Korean population had relocated to NYC from abroad within one year of the survey.
The Korean population is quite mobile within New York itself – 10.5% of residents moved within New York within one year of the survey.
Education & English
Education levels for Koreans aged 25 and older in NYC skew towards higher education, with 8.0% holding less than a high school education and over half (59.4%) holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. This is more educated than the City overall, where 17.3% have less than a high school education and only 39.0% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Korean adults are also more educated than the Asian adult population, where 43.7% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The Korean community’s English proficiency levels are inverse to those of NYC, with 44.2% of Korean over the age of 5 considered to have limited English proficiency (LEP) – about double the City’s 22.4% rate. The LEP rate is lower for Korean children (5+ but under 18) at 18.9% but significantly higher for Korean seniors (age 65+) at 87.8%.
Income & Poverty
Korean New Yorkers have average per capita and family median incomes, and above-average household median incomes compared to New York City residents.
Korean poverty rates are below-average compared to both NYC and Asian populations. However, Korean seniors live in poverty (25.7%) at a higher rate than City seniors (17.9%).
Benefits & Health
Korean households3 are enrolled in SNAP at a lower rate than both New York City households overall and Asian households.
The Affordable Care Act has significantly reduced the number of uninsured in NYC, and the Korean population is no exception. Between 2015 and 2020, 61.5% fewer Korean people were uninsured. Even with this increase, the Korean population still has the highest rate of uninsured people (9.7%) among Asian ethnic groups. The remaining population is enrolled in private insurance (65.8%) and public insurance (25.2%).
A much lower percentage of the Korean population is enrolled in government-assisted health insurance compared to both the general NYC and Asian populations.
Korean labor force participation rates are above-average for both male and female workers.
Korean unemployment rates are lower than City rates across the board.
Korean employees are much more likely to be self-employed (13.0%) than both the overall (9.8%) and Asian (10.7%) populations. This higher rate is driven by both male and female Korean self-employed employees.
Over half (59.1%) of the Korean labor force is employed by five industries. The highest percentage of Koreans employed by a single industry is 16.1% in professional services. Within professional services, 18.5% of Koreans work in computer systems design, 14.9% work in legal services, and 13.7% work in advertising.
Average household size, NYC, 2015 and 2020
Korean household3 sizes in 2020 have remained about the same as in 2015 (2.44 vs. 2.47) and are slightly smaller than City households (2.44 versus 2.57). In general, average household sizes have decreased in New York City since 2015, and Korean households are no exception.
Korean households3 are overcrowded (8.7%) at about the same rate as City households (8.2%). Compared to other Asian ethnic groups, Korean households are the least likely to be overcrowded.
Korean households3 own their homes at a lower rate and rent at a higher rate than City and Asian households. While 32.4% of the City households are owned, only 28.3% of Korean households are owned.
Rented Korean households3 tend to be severely rent burdened. 70.9% of rented Korean households are rent burdened in some capacity, with the majority qualifying as severely rent burdened. These rates are slightly below City (72.3% of rented households qualify as rent burdened) and Asian households (75.3%).
Korean households3 report owning a computer at higher rates than Asian and City households.
Korean households3 also report higher internet access rates than Asian and City households.