Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Looking Backward: Census Stats on Pacific Islanders

With the New Year rapidly approaching, I wanted to share some perspective on Pacific Islander American higher educational attainment over the past couple of decades. Pacific Islanders have been immigrating to what is now the continental U.S. for around 200 years (two examples are the Native Hawaiians who worked in the Pacific Northwest and the Pacific Islander Mormons who immigrated to Utah). Also, in the case of the native peoples of American Samoa, Guam, and Hawaii, Pacific Islanders have been living on U.S. soil while later became part of the United States. U.S. Census data on Pacific Islander higher educational attainment took a while to catch up, but we do have numbers going back two decades.

Here are some of the online resources dating back to the 1990 Census:

1990s: As part of the U.S. Census Bureau's "We the People" series, the Census released a 10-page document on the demographics of Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders living in the 50 states. The document was published in 1993, and based on 1990 Census data (LINK).
  • Percentage of Pacific Islanders with an undergraduate degree: 11 percent
  • Percentage of the U.S. population with an undergraduate degree: 20 percent
  • Percentage of "Asian and Pacific Islanders" with an undergraduate degree: 37 percent
2000: In 2003, the Census Bureau released a 12-page document on higher educational attainment in the U.S. It included attainment stats broken down by race and ethnicity (though multiracial individuals were counted as "two or more races" instead of being included in each racial group they reported). Here are the stats, which were based on Census 2000 data (LINK):
  • Percentage of Pacific Islanders with an undergraduate degree: 13.8 percent
  • Percentage of the U.S. population with an undergraduate degree: 24.4 percent
  • Percentage of Asians with an undergraduate degree: 44.1 percent

2010: We are still waiting on the results of the 2010 Census, but we do have data from surveys and other research that the U.S. Census Bureau did between the 2000 and the 2010 Census. Here are the higher educational attainment stats reported by the Census in March 2010 in preparation for "Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month". (Here's the LINK)

  • Percentage of Pacific Islanders with an undergraduate degree: 15 percent
  • Percentage of the U.S. population with an undergraduate degree: 28 percent
  • Percentage of Asians with an undergraduate degree: 50 percent

I'll expand on this in my next post, but that's it for now. Happy holidays!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Census Data Indicates Growing and Dispersing Pacific Islander American Population

Earlier this week, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser published a story on Hawaii's changing demographics, as depicted by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. (Here's that story: LINK) Among other things, it reported that while Hawaii's population increased 5.7 percent from 2000 - 2009, during that same time the Native Hawaiian population in the state decreased by 6.8 percent.

First, I want to talk about why those numbers may end up being misleading. Next, I want to talk about some other results of the American Community Survey which indicate that the Pacific Islander American population grew in number during the past decade.

The Hawaii Data: Anytime you're looking at Census data on race, make sure to check whether the results say "X" race "alone" or "alone or in combination." The difference is that "alone or in combination" stats mean that multiracial Americans are included as members of more than one of the races they identify as. Overall, multiracial individuals are not a huge percentage of the American population: we're somewhere above 2 percent. But in Hawaii, over 20 percent of the population identifies as multiracial. This means that if you want to get a detailed picture of race and ethnicity in Hawaii, you need to be able to look at "alone or in combination" stats. This is especially true for Pacific Islander Americans - in the 2000 Census multiracial Pacific Islanders greatly outnumbered those who identified as Pacific Islander alone. Unfortunately, the American Community Survey numbers that were referenced in the Star-Advertiser didn't do that.

When the richer data that includes multiracial Hawaii residents is released, it may end up indicating the same thing that the "alone" stats say... but we won't know until we see it. For now, what we do know is that in Hawaii, a segment of the Native Hawaiian population (those that identify as Native Hawaiian alone), as counted in a large government-conducted survey, declined over the past decade.

National Pacific Islander Stats: Being more curious than the average twenty-something is about Census stats, this article above encouraged me to dive into the Census Bureau's website and see what else the American Community Survey (ACS) said about the Pacific Islander American population. Here were my two major findings, comparing the American Community Survey results with the Census 2000 results:
  • From 2000 - 2009, the number of American residents who identified as Pacific Islander (aka "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander") alone grew significantly, from 398,800 to 447,500. That's a 12 percent population increase over that decade. (It will be interesting to see what the change was when the multiracial Pacific Islander population is included.)
  • From 2000 - 2009, the number of Hawaii residents who identified as Pacific Islander alone fell slightly from 113,500 to 112,900.

The takeaway is that at least in the case of individuals who identify as Pacific Islander alone, their numbers are growing noticeably across the nation, while they are slowly declining in the only Pacific Island State of the Union. (Here's a link to the Census Bureau's ACS web page: LINK)

How does this tie back into the PIA project's mission to see Pacific Islanders included in scholarships and fellowships for underrepresented minorities?

Simple. In places like Hawaii, Pacific Islanders are a significant percentage of the total population, and it is widely known that they are underrepresented in higher education. Any Hawaii-based program for underrepresented minorities would allow Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders to apply, because those programs would be aware of our underrepresentation.

Nationally, this is not the case. Many communities are hardly aware that Pacific Islander Americans exist as a thriving, growing, and sometimes struggling community. Most of these well-intended scholarships and fellowships who want to help underrepresented minorities do not include or advertise to Pacific Islanders.

Now, as the Pacific Islander population disperses across these communities, and attends college in these communities, they will find that they are being excluded from scholarships and fellowships that they should at least be able to apply to. They will find that some underrepresented minority programs which would have included them in Hawaii are not doing so across the mainland. In some cases this could make the difference between a diploma and a dropout, or attending graduate school or not.

This is another reason why - as the Pacific Islander American population disperses in greater numbers across the mainland U.S. - it is important for underrepresented minority programs to include Pacific Islanders now.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

AP-Stanford Poll: Americans Recognize Link between Economy and Education System

The Associated Press reported today on an AP-Stanford University poll surveying the views Americans hold on several aspects of higher education. Its findings have been covered from multiple perspectives, with the AP running headlines like "Poll: education backed, but not taxes."

Here are two important results from the poll that didn't make as many (if any) headlines:
  • 88 percent of respondents said that the quality of a country's education system has a large or very large impact on its economy
  • 79 percent of respondents said that if all Americans graduated from a two or four-year college it would help the economy a lot or a little

I agree with both statements (in fact I wonder about the 21 percent of folks who don't think that having a 100 percent college graduation rate would help the economy). I would take it one step further: for the underrepresented minority groups that constitute a growing portion of the American public, if they are able to graudate at a higher rate and access a quality education, this will be good for those communities in particular and the economy as a whole.

And of course this ties back to Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. They will be better able to access a quality education and graduate when they have access to the scholarships, fellowships, and academic programs for underrepresented minorities which don't currently recognize that they're underrepresented.

Here's the poll in full: LINK