Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), which are considered the fastest-growing minority group, are encouraged to participate in the upcoming 2020 Census despite concerns about privacy and language barriers.
During a panel at the Asian American Advertising Federation’s (3AF) annual summit, stakeholders discussed the importance of AAPI communities filling out the questionnaire — such as the data used to determine congressional districts and to allocate federal funding.
“The census isn’t just about how many people live in the United States. It’s about where they live too and that’s what gets used to draw the lines for things like congressional districts, voting precincts, school districts and zone for public safety,” Julie Lam, Los Angeles regional director for the U.S. Census Bureau, said. “Census data determines how many percentages each state will get in Congress…[and] provides vital information for you and your community.”
The 2020 Census will mark the first time U.S. residents can respond online in addition to the traditional phone or mail options.
Lam emphasized that the process is “easy, safe and important.” Every household will receive one census form but must include everyone living in that household in their response.
In past rounds, language barriers have hindered various groups from participating, however, the 2020 form will be available in five Asian languages, including Tagalog, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Language guides are also accessible in a total of 59 non-English languages.
The census, which is done every 10 years, will become available in March 2020. Field takers will start visiting residents from mid-May to August if they haven’t responded through any of the three options. The official counts are scheduled to be delivered to the president by December.
Over 4 million people could be missed in the next census round, according to a study released by the Urban Institute on Tuesday, June 4. It also found that AAPIs, in addition to other groups like Black and Latino, are at risk of being undercounted in populous states such as California, Florida, New York and Texas.
Asian Americans are the least familiar with the census and the least likely to report their intention to fill it out, according to a Census Bureau study released in January.
The analysis also found that there are five main barriers that might prevent people from participating: concerns about data privacy and confidentiality; fear of repercussions; distrust in government; lack of efficacy; and belief that there is no personal benefit.
With the ongoing debate about whether the “citizenship” question will be included, ethnic groups across the country are already skeptical about what the data will be used for.
Asian Americans (42%) are the most concerned that the Census Bureau would not keep answers confidential.
However, Lam said that under Title 13, Census Bureau employees take an oath to protect the information. She also assured that information will not be shared with immigration enforcement agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), law enforcement agencies such as the FBI or police, or be used to determine eligibility for government benefits.
For non-partisan fact tank Pew Research Center, the Census data would allow it to do a deeper analysis on AAPIs, such as their income and education levels.
“The Census allows us to understand the diversity within Asian American groups,” said Neil Ruiz, associate director of global migration and demography at Pew Research Center. “A lot of people usually lump all Asian Americans as one category but there’s also so much diversity… Not everyone has high income or is highly educated.”
Data from the last census allowed the fact tank to do more research, finding that the U.S. Asian population grew 72 percent from 11.9 million to 20.4 million, making it the fastest growth rate of any major racial or ethnic group. Chinese, Indians and Filipinos are the top three largest Asian groups in the country.
While Asian American data tends to get aggregated together, Pew has found a “huge income inequality that is growing among Asian Americans, Ruiz said. The Asian population does well on economic well-being compared to the entire U.S. population, but there are disparities among the Asian subgroups — the median annual household income of households headed by Asian Americans is $73,060, compared with $53,600 among all U.S. households.
For example, Indian households have the highest median income ($100,000), followed by Filipinos ($80,000), while groups like Bangladeshi ($49,800) and Hmong ($48,000) are below the median household income for the general American population.
“We hope the Census will give an accurate count. That way we can use the demographic and do more analysis in terms of tracking how AAPIs are doing in the United States,” Ruiz added.
In addition to data being used to allocate government funds, corporations like AARP, which serves Americans 50 and above, use the information to identify target audiences and to supplement in-house research.
Daphne Kwok, vice president for AARP’s multicultural markets and engagement, said that based on 2010 numbers, AARP developed Chinese and Filipino outreach, given that they were among the largest Asian subgroups.
Kwok added that AARP will be educating older respondents with filling out the form, especially those having difficulty with technology, as well as awareness campaigns around fraud related to the census.
As 2020 approaches, the Census Bureau is working with community organizations, like those in AAPI communities, to debunk myths about the process and to help recruit employees to be field representatives.
“It only comes once every 10 years. If we don’t get it right this time, we have to wait 10 more years in order to get it right…,” Lam said. “The Census is too important for us to not be part of it.”