By Tina Lu
Northwest Asian Weekly
Asian Americans as well as Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) are the fastest growing racial groups in the West, according to a report released last week by the advocacy organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ).
The report provides the latest data on the growing Asian American and NHPI communities in the Western region, including Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
From 2000 to 2010, the NHPI population in the West grew by 37 percent, and Asian Americans by
36 percent, while the total population in the Western region has only grown by 14 percent.
“The goals of this report are really to promote the better understanding of two of the country’s fastest growing and most diverse racial groups,” said Joanna Lee, a senior research analyst with AAAJ.
Because most data report Asian Americans and NHPI populations as a whole, it gives the impression of success among the entire population, said Diane Narasaki, executive director of Asian Counseling and Referral Service in Seattle. “But sadly, [the success] does not pertain to many ethnic groups.”
Policymakers often overlook disadvantaged populations within the community. This report aims to give up-to-date data and policy recommendations, said Lee.
Much of the data from this report came from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Over one in every 10 people living in the West are Asian American. And probably now, it’s close to one in every nine,” said Lee.
In addition to the West as a region, the report also looks at five areas within the region that have the largest Asian American and NHPI populations outside of California. One of these areas is the Seattle area.
The Seattle metro area is defined in the study to include Snohomish County, King County, and Pierce County.
One of the key findings from the report is that with a growing population, Asian Americans and NHPI are making significant contributions to the economy through job creation, business ownership, and consumer spending.
“In 2007, Asian Americans [in the Seattle area] owned nearly 30,000 businesses, an increase of 39 percent since 2002,” according to the report.
Asian American and NHPI buying power in Washington also tripled to about $26.4 billion between 2000 and 2014. They are among the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States.
But many Asian Americans and NHPI in the West are struggling to make ends meet.
“While they are making significant contributions to the economy, they also have real needs that should be addressed by policymakers,” said Lee.
The report points to language barriers, lack of health insurance, and increasing numbers of unemployed among Asian American and NHPI populations.
There are significant health problems within the Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population, and many are uninsured, said Lua Pritchard, executive director of Asia Pacific Cultural Center.
Education is also a specific problem within this population, she said.
“Many of our kids now in the United States are not graduating from high school. We have probably the lowest graduation rate,” said Pritchard. “But are we discussed? No.”
Narasaki believes that without the disaggregated data, students won’t be able to get proper funding for the opportunities, help, and programs they need in education.
“This data from Advancing Justice painted a much more accurate picture of our API communities,” said Ay Saechao, director of the TRiO Student Support & Retention Services Department at Highline College. “It is a step in the right direction for service providers, for administrators, policymakers, and the community to engage and work as meaningfully as ever before.” (end)
Tina Lu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.