Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Does "Asian Pacific Islander" data accurately represent Pacific Islanders?

Q. Does "Asian Pacific Islander" data accurately represent Pacific Islanders?

A. Not when it comes to college graduation rates.

Pacific Islanders and Asians are two separate, distinct racial groups. However, sometimes they are grouped together for data collection, and categorized as "Asian Pacific Islanders" or "Asian Pacific Americans." API college graduation data often bears no resemblance to what's happening to Pacific Islanders.

Why? First, because in addition to being two different groups, Pacific Islanders and Asians have two very different levels of higher educational attainment -- Asians are three-and-a-half-times more likely to have a bachelors degree, and five times more likely to have an advanced degree. While Pacific Islanders are significantly underrepresented in higher education, Asians have the highest college graduation rate among the major racial and ethnic groups according to the U.S. Census.

Secondly, the Asian American population is much larger than the Pacific Islander American population -- 14 times larger. So when you take all of the Asian Americans and group them with all of the Pacific Islander Americans, the resulting data will have counted fourteen "As" for every one "PI."

The danger is that if you mistakenly think API college graduation data represents Pacific Islanders, you'll be treating an underrepresented group as if they're not underrepresented, and incorrectly excluding them from scholarships and fellowships for underrepresented minorities.


Tarun Kumar said...

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Fatuhamumu said...

There is already as distinction between the two races which was instituted by the OBM in 1997 to take effect in the Census 2000. However, the data and subequent data from research are still reported as one. Concomitantly, in the 2010 Census, the race is clear: White, Asian, Black or African American, Native American and Alaska Native and the last race category is Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. So, patients are needed as time will take to disaggregate the data thus revealing the true nature of our academic attainments and dropouts as well.

the PIA project - said...

Aloha Fatuhamumu -- Thank you for reading our blog and commenting.

You are correct that federal policy has distinguished between Pacific Islanders and Asians since 1997. However, we don't need to wait for 2010 Census data to confirm whether Pacific Islanders are underrepresented -- solid US Census data revealing Pacific Islander underrepresentation among college graduates has been around for over 20 years.

(You can access that information and more on our "Facts on Pacific Islander Underrepresentation" links.)

Mahalo again for reading!