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Disaggregating Asian American Pacific Islanders

Emil Photo Again Edited 61b7dabb61239


Native Hawaiian Pacific Islanders.

Who are they?

At more than 1.2 million people, they are roughly .4 percent of the U.S. population. But the group has grown by 40 percent since 2000 and in places you wouldn’t think, like Utah and Arkansas.

Here’s the top 20 NHPI with their corresponding population from the 2010 Census:

Native Hawaiian 527,077

Samoan 184,440

Guamanian or Chamorro 147,798

Tongan 57,183

Fijian 32,304

Marshallese 22,434

Palauan 7,450

Tahitian 5,062

Chuukese 4,211

Pohnpeian 2,060

Saipanese 1,031

Yapese 1,018

Tokelauan 925

Kosraean 906

Carolinian 521

Papua New Guinean 416

I-Kiribati 401

Mariana Islander 391

Solomon Islander 122

Ni-Vanuatu 91

I’m not asking you to pick out their island on a map.

But I am asking you to get used to picking them out from under the terms we’ve conveniently lumped them under.

Twenty years ago, NHPIs were made invisible as they were swept under the political umbrella “Asian American.”

That term was eventually expanded to “Asian Pacific American” or “APA.” But even the “P” wasn’t inclusive enough.

Since then, we’ve seen the usage of “AAPI” for “Asian American and Pacific Islander.”

That iteration may sound slightly more inclusive, but once again lumping them under such a broad banner usually ends up with a false and stereotypical impression of everyone associated with the term.

When you hear “AAPI” the first thing that pops into your mind probably isn’t a Marshallese or a Paulauan.

And yet the only way to recognize the community’s diverse needs is to disaggregate the data, so that we can see what exactly we mean when we say NHPI.

This week in California, a new report of disaggregated data gave policy makers in Sacramento a new way of looking at their data.

Since 2000, the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community in California grew by more than 30 percent to more than 340,000, according to a report released by EPIC (Empowering Pacific Islander Communities) and AAAJ (Asian Americans Advancing Justice).

The growth rate of NHPI in California is second only to Asian Americans (34 percent), but greater than the growth of Latinos (28 percent).

EPIC and AAAJ’s report will make you wonder about all the stereotypes for Asian Americans.

Drill down to the NHPIs and the numbers show a different community when it comes to higher ed.

NHPIs have lower-than-average Bachelor’s Degree attainment for the population 25 years and older. At 18 percent, it’s a rate identical to African Americans. Getting to college is the other half of the battle. High school graduation rates are low; the drop-out rate is higher.

Of NHPI 18- to 24-year-olds, 38 percent were enrolled in college in 2011, lower than average for the nation (42 percent), but similar to African Americans (37 percent) and Latino (35 percent).

When they were in college, nearly half were in a two-year institution, a rate higher than average.

And those are just numbers for education.

Disaggregating the NHPI is that kind of eye-opener, a first step toward ending invisibility.

Emil Guillermo writes on issues of race, culture and politics for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund ( Like him at ; twitter@emilamok

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