Sunday, June 03, 2012

Pacific Islander Americans: Population Size

Thanks to the U.S. Census Bureau's recent report on Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, we have a new population count for Pacific Islanders in the 50 States: 1,225,195.  This is a 40 percent increase from 2000, when our population was still under one million. (These figures do not include Pacific Islanders residing in the U.S. Pacific Territories, such as American Samoa or Guam.)  By comparison, the overall rate of population growth in the U.S. was just under ten percent.

At 1.2 million, Pacific Islanders remain the smallest of the five major racial groups.  Still, when you compare our population size in other ways, it's clear that even in pure numbers, we're an important part of America that shouldn't be ignored.  For example:

  • Comparing Pacific Islander Americans to States: We'd be bigger than seven states: Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, and Vermont.  We're also nearly twice the size of the District of Columbia's resident population. (Here's Wikipedia's list of states.)
  • Comparing Pacific Islander Americans to Branches of the Military: The Pacific Islander community is significantly larger than any single branch of the U.S. military (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard).  Our population is about 15 percent smaller than the total number of active duty military in each branch combined (1.2 million Pacific Islanders in the 50 states vs. 1.4 million active duty, according to Wikipedia's figures on the U.S. Armed Forces). 
  • Comparing Pacific Islander Americans to known professions: According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Pacific Islanders in the U.S. is significantly larger than the number of police officers and detectives (1.2 million vs. 794,300), physicians and surgeons (1.2 million vs. 610,000), or professional firefighters (1.2 million vs. 310,400).

This isn't to say that the issues facing Pacific Islanders are any more or less important than the needs of any of the groups mentioned here.  The point is that we shouldn't discount Pacific Islander Americans on account of our population size alone -- because by that logic, we'd have to ignore other critical parts of our community that make us who we are as a nation.


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