Protip: Asian Americans Are Not All The Same

Disagreggated data helps tell the story of America’s diverse AAPI population and should inform policy decisions that affect our communities

This week, Asian Americans Advancing Justice released its final report in the Community of Contrasts series, which aims to provide insight into the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities across the U.S. through a series of demographic reports that include the Midwest, the Northeast, the South, and now, the West.

The report, focused on Asian Americans and NHPIs in Arizona, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Oregon, highlights the disparities among the growing Asian American population in the West. Contrary to the commonly-held perception that Asian Americans are all alike in that they are well-off and well-educated, the report shows which communities are growing the most and the least, which are registering and turning out to vote, what their levels of education and income are and much more.

In the past week we’ve been reminded of the reasons disaggregated data is so important for our community.

On October 10, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof asked what he called an “awkward” question of “Why are Asian-Americans so successful in America?” His column was promptly met with a strong response from Christopher Kang, executive director at the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), calling the column out for accepting a premise that “perpetuates stereotypes and divides Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) from the broader racial justice movement.”

After this week’s Democratic debate, many Asian American voters expressed frustration that candidates did not appear to speak to or about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. As the nation’s fastest growing group of voters, it’s understandable that being made to feel invisible yet again would prompt a response. In Nevada alone, where the debate was held, the number of Asian Americans who registered to vote grew 157% between 2004 and 2012—a rate higher than any other racial group.

We’ve been calling for disaggregated data on Asian American groups for a long time. Much of Advancing Justice | AAJC’s work is focused on making sure the U.S. Census counts Asian American and NHPI ethnicities accurately, which helps ensure our communities’ needs are met by local, state, and federal governments. And the first Community of Contrasts report by Asian Americans Advancing Justice was published in 2006.