Life insurance ownership high among Chinese-Americans, study finds

Insurance agents are constantly on the lookout for leads. And when it comes to life insurance, one of the most promising areas that often yields positive returns is a minority group that's increasingly becoming the majority: Chinese-Americans, according to a new poll.

"1 in 2 Chinese-Americans owns life insurance."

Approximately 50 percent of Chinese-Americans are said to own life insurance, based on a recent survey conducted by worldwide research organization LIMRA. That contrasts sharply with the 39 percent of the general population who have a policy in place.

With China being the world's most-populated country, the globe's largest ethnic group is Han Chinese, according to data from the United Nations. Additionally, Mandarin is the language with the highest number of native speakers, at 14 percent.

Prefer permanent life insurance
Not only are Chinese-Americans more likely than the general population to own life insurance, they're also more inclined to own permanent life insurance, policies that never expire because they aren't subject to a time period, as is the case with term life insurance. 

Nilufer Ahmed, senior director of insurance research at LIMRA, indicated that in order to arrive at the findings, the study examined three language-acculturated segments: those who speak Chinese exclusively, those who speak both English and Chinese, but mostly English, as well as those who are textbook bilingual. In other words, they're fluent in both languages and use them on a fairly equal basis.

The analysis discovered that the more exclusive respondents were to their Chinese heritage, the more likely they were to own permanent life insurance. For example, approximately 46 percent of Chinese-dominant consumers owned a policy versus 36 percent of Chinese Americans who primarily spoke English.

"Chinese-American households are more likely to be multi-generational," Ahmed said. "[Therefore], maintaining the family's income is more important as more people rely on that income."

He further stated that seeing as how approximately one-third of Chinese-Americans immigrated to the United States since 2000 - and education is highly valued in the culture - it's important to have the money necessary to continue paying for higher education should something happen to a family's primary breadwinner.

More partial to face-to-face interaction

"3 in 4 would rather meet with a financial professional in person."

Though the Internet has made referrals, leads and consultations more transportable and user-friendly both for agents and insurance consumers, there's something to be said for face-to-face interactions, which Chinese-Americans overwhelmingly prefer when pursuing life insurance products. LIMRA's study found that 75 percent of respondents would much rather meet with a financial professional in a one-on-one, in-person setting rather than through an interactive medium. This may be due to the difficulty which Chinese-Americans often find with buying the right policy. Six in 10 believed consulting with a professional was a crucial component to buying the right policy, versus less than half of the general population.

Though Chinese-Americans are often born in the United States, but have lineage tracing back to the Far East, Chinese immigrants represent the third-largest foreign-born ethnic group in the U.S., according to the Migration Policy Institute. Mexican immigrants represent the biggest group and Indians are the second-largest.

The Chinese-American population has exploded in a relatively short period of time. In 1980, for instance, there were less than 1 million living in the United States. As of 2010, over 3.5 million Chinese-Americans live in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center.

Southern California and Arizona have the largest density of Chinese-Americans. In San Diego County, for example, approximately 59,000 are of this heritage and 421,700 have Asian roots.

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