Washington D.C. — A report released today by the Center for American Progress explores the effects on policymaking and policy implementation caused by a lack of robust data and thoughtful analysis, particularly as it pertains to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, or AAPI, in the United States.
“Public policy is crafted to address inequalities and opportunities among different communities in the United States, but for these interventions to be efficient, a clear understanding of the target audiences and identifying the large variations both among different communities of color—African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, multiracial Americans, and AAPI—and within each community is critical,” said Farah Z. Ahmad, co-author of the report and Policy Analyst for Progress 2050 at CAP. “The AAPI community has high levels of variation, and the experience of Chinese Americans, for example, is very different than that of Vietnamese Americans.”
Population data that are broken down by race and ethnicity often only exist at highly aggregated levels, so that despite having socioeconomic experiences that vary widely, groups of people with very different cultural, social, and historical backgrounds are lumped into one larger group, masking differences that are important in shaping policy.
The report, authored by Farah Z. Ahmad and Christian E. Weller, discusses some of the data available on Asian Americans, and then presents and explains the challenges associated with the data, offering policy recommendations to address them. Some of the discoveries in the research are:
- Asian Americans are a very diverse population group. The term “Asian” in official government statistics is a racial category based on the history of U.S. migration and race relations. It encompasses immigrants from Asia and people of Asian descent born in the United States.
- People of Asian descent are the fastest-growing population in the United States. The portion of the U.S. population that self-identifies as Asian grew 46 percent from 2000 to 2010. The Asian American population grew by 2.9 percent in 2012, compared to the Hispanic population, which grew 2.2 percent.
- Asian Americans have highly varied economic experiences. A substantial share of Asian American subpopulations struggle with high poverty and a lack of health insurance, but these struggles are often masked by the high employment and incomes of other, larger Asian American subpopulations.
To both increase the number of respondents willing to identify their race and ethnicities and better disseminate disaggregated data, the report recommends the following actions by the federal government:
- Conduct surveys in the most common languages of relevant subpopulations
- Encourage the Census Bureau and other federal statistical agencies to continue researching more ways to capture subpopulation data, including national origin
- Oversample respondents from subpopulations that are likely to underreport
- Generate disaggregated data in addition to its aggregated data whenever possible
- Create a central data repository on communities of color, including—but not limited to—Asian Americans
“A country that prides itself on giving a very diverse population economic opportunities to reach their goals and aspirations needs to also be able to assess who has and who doesn’t have these opportunities,” said Christian E. Weller, co-author of the report and Senior Fellow for the Center for American Progress. “Hence, it is high time for policymakers to tackle the data shortcomings when looking at the fastest-growing racial group in the United States.”
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