Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Underrepresented Minorities Responsible for Most of America's Population Growth

The U.S. Census Bureau has started to release findings from its 2010 data collection, and while there's more to come, I've already seen some interesting information about how we're growing as a nation. Seeing those numbers, I was inclined to look into how much of our country's growth over the past decade came from underrepresented minorities.

Loyal readers may remember when I blogged a few months ago (LINK) about how our future as a nation depends in part on helping underrepresented minorities succeed academically. Specifically, I said that "If our higher education system doesn't figure out how to recruit, retain, and graduate the groups that will make up half of the American population in the coming decades, that's not just a system that's failing minorities: that's just plain failure."

That day hasn't come yet. But, according to the Census, we don't need to wait until the day that underrepresented minorities are responsible for a majority of our population growth: they already do.

Between 2000 and 2010, the U.S. population increased by about 27.3 million. Of that 27.3 million, America's four major underrepresented groups were responsible for most of that growth: collectively, the Hispanic, African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander populations grew by over 20 million. That's roughly 73 percent of our overall growth as a nation.

(This number is probably a little too high, because people who are Hispanic and members of another underrepresented minority group could be counted twice, with the way that the Census reported these numbers. At the same time, it could be a little low, because it excludes underrepresented minorities who identified as multiracial. This probably affects the number by just a few percentage points.)

In other words, the overwhelming majority of America's population growth in the past decade came from minority communities that are currently underrepresented in higher education. This is happening at a time where education is becoming even more important, and other nations are investing in their future by investing in education.

The Pacific Islander Access project wants to be a part of the effort to help underrepresented minorities by helping the academic programs who serve them. Our first order of business has been to raise awareness about the fact that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented, and that these programs should allow Pacific Islanders to apply alongside other underrepresented groups. Over time, we want to move beyond doing just that, and help connect Pacific Islander scholars and the underrepresented minority programs that want to help them. By doing this, we can help underrepresented minority academic programs achieve their mission.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Updated Stats on Pacific Islanders and Asians

Last month we did a post that mentioned Directive 15, the federal policy on racial and ethnic data collection.

Between then and now, the U.S. Census Bureau published updated stats on Pacific Islanders and Asians. This is an annual update that the Census does in recognition of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, which is celebrated each May.

If you click on the link, you'll see that at the top, it mentions how Directive 15 recognizes that Pacific Islanders and Asians are two separate groups. In line with Directive 15, the Census separates the data on Pacific Islanders and Asians. It's a good example of Directive 15 being followed. It also shows how collecting data on the two groups allows people to see the socioeconomic differences between Pacific Islanders and Asians.

What are the latest stats on Pacific Islander and Asian higher educational attainment?

U.S. Average: 28 percent
Asian Americans: 50 percent
Pacific Islander Americans: 14 percent

We'll blog more about the stats next month. For now, here's a link to the full release: LINK


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Student Loan Debt Approaches One Trillion Dollars

This week the New York Times published a well-written article about American student loan debt -- which is increasingly common, increasing in size, and arguably starting to make an impact on the U.S. economy.

I've blogged before about the fact that Americans already owe more in student loan debt than credit card debt. This article, while providing a nuanced overview of the personal and macroeconomic impact of high student loan debt, also puts a sticker price to it -- U.S. student loan debt is likely to hit a trillion dollars this year.

This isn't to say that students should forget about college in order to avoid student loan debt: a college diploma remains a wise and strong investment for individuals. But the growing cost of college, and the drawbacks of high student loan debt should serve as a reminder of the importance of scholarships and fellowships, including those for underrepresented minorities ("URM scholarships and fellowships"). For Pacific Islanders, if they were allowed to apply for URM scholarships and fellowships, this could reduce their need to take on high debt in order to fulfill their potential.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Saying it with a Graph: "Asian Pacific Islanders" data doesn't represent Pacific Islanders

The last few posts have been about how grouping Pacific Islanders with Asians leads to misleading data and misunderstandings. The most recent post was on why. In this post, I wanted to show the data in a different way.

Using numbers provided this year by the U.S. Census Bureau, here are the 4-year college graduation rates for the general U.S. population (US Av), Pacific Islanders (PI), and Asians. The last bar shows what the grad rate is when you group Pacific Islanders with Asians. As you can see, the graduation rate for "Asian Pacific Islanders" (A/PI) and Asians is almost exactly the same. Meanwhile, Pacific Islander graduation rates is much much lower than the "Asian Pacific Islander" rate -- over three times lower.

As you can see, the "Asian Pacific Islander" stats here are a very bad indicator for what's going on with Pacific Islanders, and anyone who used the API stats to make decisions about Pacific Islanders would be making a mistake.

In addition, the stats clearly reflect that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented: their graduation rate is half of the national average.

Here are the college graduation rates in plain text:

U.S. National Average: 28 percent
Pacific Islander Americans: 14 percent
Asian Americans: 50 percent
"Asian and Pacific Islander Americans:" 48 percent

My two points, which you may have heard before: 1.) data grouping Pacific Islanders and Asians together does not accurately represent Pacific Islanders, and 2.) Pacific Islanders are highly underrepresented in higher education.


How did we get the API data? Not having the exact numbers broken down, we did an estimate using the same data that the Census is using this year. While that release was sent out this year, the data for college graduation was from the 2005-2009 American Community Survey, so we pulled the numbers from that survey using census.gov's American Fact Finder.

There are two things I want to point out with these numbers. 1.) The American Community Survey is exactly that (a survey), with a margin of error. In other words, it's an estimate, but a scientifically valid one. 2.) Also, these are stats on Pacific Islanders and Asians "alone," which means that it doesn't include multiracial Pacific Islanders or Asians. This is important for all races, but especially Pacific Islanders and Asians, because they are more likely to be multiracial than the general population.

It's also important to mention that these stats don't include people who are 24-years-old or younger. This is standard practice by the census and others when collecting and reporting data on college graduation rates. Doogie Howser MD aside, it makes sense to limit the data collection to people who are old enough to have had a fair chance to complete their higher education.

American Community Survey Stats on Asians and Pacific Islanders "alone" (25-or-older)
Asians = 8,924,706
Pacific Islanders = 265,466
"Asians and Pacific Islanders" = 9,190,172

Asian College Grads = 4,425,164
Pacific Islander College Grads = 28,026
"A/PI College Grads = 4,453,190

Next, to get the "Asian Pacific Islander" graduation rate, we just need to know what percentage 4,453,190 is out of the 9,190,172 people who are either Pacific Islanders of Asians "alone" according to the American Community Survey.

(4,453,190/9,190,172) x 100 = 48.45. In other words, the "A/PI" college graduation rate is 48.45 percent, according to recent Census data.

When more data from the 2010 Census becomes available, we'll be able to provide an update.