By Stephanie Hoo
The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday released detailed data on race and ethnicity from the 2020 census, showing a surge in the nation’s Asian Indian population and offering more precise data on Southeast Asian Americans.
The new data provides information on 41 Asian groups, or 18 more than in 2010 — including Sikh and Iu-Mien — and reclassifies several Central Asian groups, such as Kazakhs, as Asian instead of White.
Advocacy groups both commended the Census Bureau for its work and also urged it to go further in refining how Asians are counted, to ensure future censuses are more inclusive and better take into account how groups self-identify.
Census data is used in federal policy, funding, and representation.
The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, or SEARAC, said that while the data includes Iu-Mien, Lahu, and Tai Dam for the first time, it does not count other Southeast Asian populations such as the Montagnard and continues to identify Hmong as East Asian instead of Southeast Asian over community objections.
“Southeast Asian Americans have a right to be seen, and that includes in official datasets like the one released today by the U.S. Census Bureau,” said SEARAC Executive Director Quyên Đinh. “When our communities are explicitly named in research and data collection, our experiences and challenges are made visible, allowing more resources and investment into the communities who need it most.”
According to the data, respondents who identified as solely Asian Indian — or “Asian Indian alone” in census-speak — rose 54.7 percent in 2020 from 2010, to 4.4 million, making it the largest Asian “alone group” in the United States.
Chinese, excluding Taiwanese, were the second-largest “alone group,” up 31.6 percent to 4.1 million. The next three “alone groups”: Filipino, up 20.4 percent to 3 million; Vietnamese, up 26 percent to 1.95 million; Korean, up 6 percent to 1.5 million.
For “alone or in any combination” — that is, respondents who checked one or more groups — Chinese alone or in any combination was the largest in 2010 and remained so in 2020, up 37.2 percent to 5.2 million.
(Click here for the complete table.)
The Census Bureau previously estimated the total Asian population in the U.S. at 24 million. The total AAPI population is 25.7 million.
Nearly all 31 Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander groups grew, according to the bureau. The fastest-growing “alone group” was Chuukese, up 296 percent (or nearly fourfold) to 10,500, and the fastest-growing “alone or in any combination group” was Papua New Guinean, up 249 percent to 1,453.
The bureau said it added data for the following Asian groups in 2020: Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, Uzbek, Sikh, Sindhi, Bruneian, Mien, Buryat, Kalmyk, Kuki, Lahu, Malay, Mizo, Pashtun, Tai Dam and Timorese.
“Detailed data are particularly critical for Asian Americans, who continue to be among our nation’s fastest growing and most diverse racial groups,” said Terry Ao Minnis, vice president for census and voting programs at Asian Americans Advancing Justice. “Often viewed as homogenous, these communities include more than 30 detailed subgroups that can differ dramatically across key social and economic indicators. This data allows policymakers and community leaders to better assess the communities they serve, and properly engage with them.”
“Disaggregated data is vital to having a comprehensive understanding of different communities’ unique experiences and challenges,” said Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chair Rep. Judy Chu. “The AANHPI [Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander] community itself is extremely diverse, and we know that lumping our groups together can have harmful impacts by hiding the disparities that certain racial or ethnic groups face, including gaps in wages earned, health outcomes, or educational attainment. Policymakers depend on accurate data to develop specific legislative solutions that better address these inequalities and effectively serve all of our communities.”
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