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.