January 13, 1975
New York, NY
- Known For:
2020 Presidential Candidate
About Andrew Yang
Andrew Yang was born on January 13, 1975, in Schenectady, New York, to immigrant parents from Taiwan. Yang is the second child of Kei Hsiung Yang and Nancy Yang. Kei Hsiung Yang was a physicist at IBM and General Electric, while Nancy Yang was a statistician and computer services technician.
Yang grew up in Westchester County, New York, after moving with his family at the age of four. He describes being bullied and called racial slurs while growing up. He explains how his experience with bullying gave him an appreciation for the underdog, saying, “Perhaps, as a result, I’ve always taken pride in relating to the underdog or little guy or gal. As I grew up, I tried to stick up for whoever seemed excluded or marginalized.”
When Yang was 12, he took the SAT. Despite being a task intended for high school students, 12-year-old Yang got a 1220, better than most high school seniors that year. He retook the test the following three years, scoring above 1500, in the 99th percentile, by the time he was 15.
Yang left New York in high school to attend the prestigious New Hampshire boarding school, Phillipps Exeter Academy, graduating in 1992. While at Exeter, he made the U.S. National debate team and competed in the world championships in London.
When asked about his net worth, Yang has said, “My net worth is probably much lower than speculation would lead one to believe.”
Several media outlets have provided estimates of Yang’s net worth, with varied results. In 2019, Forbes estimated his net worth to be roughly $1 million, though, in 2020, Open Secrets reported Yang’s net worth could be as low as $584,047.
Yang met his wife, Evelyn Lu, on the campus of Columbia University while he was working at Manhattan Test Prep. She worked as a marketer in the beauty industry at the time, though she now works as a stay-at-home mom, raising the couple’s two sons. Yang has spoken openly about how their oldest son, Christopher, is on the autism spectrum and how the experience of raising a child with a disability has shaped his belief in policies that support disabled individuals.
Andrew Yang’s Education
After high school, Yang was accepted into Stanford and Brown but chose Brown primarily because it would allow him to live near his brother Lawrence, who was attending Wesleyan. At Brown, he majored in economics and political science, graduating in 1996.
Yang attended Columbia Law School, earning a Juris Doctor degree in 1999. Yang explains that he felt uncertain about his career path after graduating with his bachelor’s, saying, “After Brown, I still didn’t know what to do. So I went to law school.”16]
After law school, Yang took a position as a corporate attorney in New York City, which he did not enjoy. He said, “I spent five months as an unhappy lawyer at Davis Polk. And I said this is a terrible job. My quote at the time was, ‘This firm is like a temple to the squandering of human potential.’”
Despite still having $110,000 in student loans, Yang left his job as an attorney, where he was making around $150,000 a year (over $277,000 in 2023 dollars). He created the company, Stargiving, a website intended to help celebrities harness their fame to raise money for charity. However, after the dot com bubble burst, the company failed in 2002. Yang went broke and lost his apartment. After Stargiving went under, Yang took a job as the vice president of a healthcare startup, where he remained until 2005.
In 2006, Yang joined the test prep company Manhattan Prep as managing director and later CEO. When the company was acquired by Kaplan in 2009, Yang became a millionaire. After the acquisition, Yang stayed with the company until 2011.
In 2011, Yang founded Venture for America, a non-profit that connects recent college graduates with start-ups. Since it was founded, Venture for America has trained more than 1,600 fellows who have raised over $750 million of investment capital. Yang acted as CEO until stepping down in 2017.
In 2011, Yang was recognized for his work with Venture for America by the White House program “Champions of Change,” which honors 500 people from each state for outstanding work in their communities. In 2012, Fast Company ranked Yang number 27 on its list of “100 Most Creative People in Business.” In 2015, Yang was named a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship, an advisory group created by the Obama administration to encourage entrepreneurship in America.
In 2014, Yang released his first book, Smart People Should Build Things: How to Restore Our Culture of Achievement, Build a Path for Entrepreneurs, and Create New Jobs in America. The book covered the themes he focused on founding Venture for America, including recommendations for policymakers and job seekers to make entrepreneurship more achievable.
Democratic Presidential Candidate
In November 2017, Yang announced he would run in the 2020 presidential election as a Democrat. He ran on a platform that included a universal basic income, which aimed to provide every American adult with $1,000 per month to alleviate economic hardships and address the potential job displacement caused by automation.
The other issues he addressed in his campaign included Medicare for all, reducing the influence of money in politics, reforming campaign financing, and supporting ranked voting. He used several campaign slogans, including “Humanity First,” “Make America Think Harder (MATH),” and “Not Left, Not Right, Forward.”
In 2018, during the early stages of campaigning, Yang published his second book, The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future, which argued for universal basic income as a solution to job displacement.
Despite his lack of experience in politics, Yang gained momentum by appearing on several popular podcasts and shows, including The Joe Rogan Experience,The Breakfast Club,The Ben Shapiro Show,and Real Time with Bill Maher. He became known for doing interviews with conservative news outlets, allowing him to attract conservative voters who did not want to support incumbent Donald Trump.
Based on his polling and fundraising, Yang qualified for nearly all of the Democratic debates, sitting out only one of the first eight debates. However, after a poor performance in the Iowa caucus, Yang dropped out of the presidential race in February 2020.
Humanity Forward Foundation
In March 2020, Yang announced the creation of the nonprofit organization Humanity Forward Foundation. The goal of the nonprofit was to promote ideas from Yang’s presidential campaign, including universal basic income and ranked voting. The organization aimed to demonstrate the effectiveness of a universal basic income by sending $1,000 monthly payments to low-income households in New York. The organization was able to distribute over $8 million to families in need.
New York City Mayoral Campaign
In January 2021, less than a year after ending his presidential campaign, Yang announced his candidacy for New York City mayor. Yang carried several ideas from his presidential campaign into his platform during his mayoral run. He advocated for the implementation of a universal basic income program called “The People’s Bank,” which would provide direct cash payments to low-income New Yorkers.
The other major issues in his platform included small business support, affordable housing initiatives, educational reforms, investing in renewable energy infrastructure, reducing emissions, and reforming the police without defunding the police. Despite his strong initial campaign momentum and name recognition, Yang did not advance to the final stages of the election.
In October 2021, Yang announced he no longer wanted to be a part of the Democratic Party, and he was creating a new third party called the Forward Party. The Forward initially operated as a political action committee but petitioned the FEC for recognition as a formal political party in 2022 through a merger with the Serve America movement and the Renew America Movement.
Yang first mentioned his plans to create a new party in his third published book, Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy. In this book, Yang argued that American institutions were failing to keep pace with the modern world and that the current political system will not hold up as technology advances and the world continues to change. He also spoke frequently of the ideas that the Forward Party supports in the Forward Podcast, which he started in 2020.
Criticisms and Controversies
- Lack of Policy Depth: One criticism leveled against Yang is that his policy proposals lack sufficient depth and detailed implementation plans. Critics argue that while his ideas gained attention, he provided limited specifics on how to fund and implement them effectively. Many people argued that his proposal for universal basic income was not economically feasible.
- Lack of political experience: Some critics argue that Yang doesn’t have enough experience as a political leader to be in office. Before running for NYC mayor, Yang had never voted in a mayoral election, causing some to believe he does not have experience following politics.
- Comments on Race: During a debate during the presidential election, Yang said, “I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors.” In another instance, he described himself as “an Asian man who likes math.” Critics say his comments may reinforce stereotypes about Asian Americans.
- Allegations of gender discrimination: Two of Yang’s former female employees alleged that he treated them differently than their male coworkers. The first complaint came from Kimberly Watkins, who claimed Yang fired her because she would not work as hard after getting married. The second complaint came from an employee who claimed she was unfairly paid less than male coworkers in equivalent positions. The employee says she was later fired for asking for a raise. Yang denied both allegations, saying, “I’ve had so many phenomenal women leaders that have elevated me and my organizations at every phase of my career, and if I was that kind of person, I would never have had any success.”
Andrew Yang Today
Today, Yang continues to promote the Forward Party and produce the Forward Podcast. In recent years, he’s also joined the advisory team at venture capital firm Legendary Ventures. In 2022, Yang also announced the launch of a Web3 community called Lobby 3, whose membership fees would fund lobbying work on behalf of blockchain technology on Capitol Hill.
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