"In order to address the limitations of the cultural argument, researchers have focused on important structural factors such as immigration history, economic context, and opportunity structure to explain Asian American achievement. For instance, it has been argued that selective migration of post-1965 immigrants—namely, those entering under professional status—favored those who are coming with a higher education level and from higher socio-economic backgrounds. That is, Asian American children’s educational success can be largely attributed to those who are coming from Asian families who were middle-class professionals in their country of origin. Researchers have also underscored ethnic economies and networks as important means for Asian Americans to achieve social mobility. Although ethnic economics have been historically formed as a result of racial and social barriers, as well as lack of access to the primary-sector-market economy, researchers argue that this avenue allows Asian immigrants to gain important economic and social resources for first- and second-generation immigrants."

Jamie Lew, Asian Americans in Class: Charting the Achievement Gap Among Korean American Youth

The ‘ethnic economy’ described here reflects one explanation I’ve seen for why Asian Americans experience the longest terms of unemployment.* If Asian Americans are more likely to be working in ethnic enclaves, employed through family and community networks, then the failure of those subeconomies within the broader economies would lead to unemployment and difficulty finding work outside that ethnic economy.

But research shows that disparity hits harder the more educated an Asian American is. White workers with the same education level are just not as hard hit; it is suggested that Asian Americans with relatively low educational attainment are working jobs that are deemed appropriate for immigrants, so their foreign-ness (regardless of their ‘actual’ foreign-ness) do not work against them as much.

This dovetails with how even though Asian Americans have to be more qualified (whether it’s test scores, grades, degrees, experience, etc.) than their white peers to get accepted into the same schools / hired to the same positions.

*One factor to remember is that we measure unemployment only among those actively looking for work, so these numbers do not reflect those who have given up on looking for work for whatever reason.