In politics, we tend to use abbreviations. Since the Proposition 187 campaign in 1994, California political scientists and pundits have wrestled with the “Latino vote.” In recent years, more focus has been placed on Asian political behavior – particularly as a majority of our immigrants now come from the world’s most populous continent.
But these terms often miss important gradations and distinctions. This is particularly true when looking at Asian/Pacific Islander populations.
Unlike immigrants from Mexico, Central or South America, there is no common language that unifies API voters. Immigrants from Asian countries and their children come from a vastly diverse set of economic, cultural and political circumstances, and have very different American experiences.
A new study looks at the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander experience in California, and sheds some light on how that is district from what many of us think of as the “API Experience” in California.
Taken as a whole, Asian immigrants and their children are more successful in California than other ethnic groups. As a study from the Public Policy Institute of California found, “On the whole, whites and Asians are healthier, more educated, economically better off, and less likely to be victims of violent crime than are Hispanics and African Americans.”
But, as this new study reveals, immigrants and descendants of native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders typically lag behind those from others that fall under the Asian-Pacific Islander umbrella.
“The API label masks significant disparities between NHPI and Asian Americans across key socioeconomic characteristics,” the executive summary states. For example, “Nationwide, NHPI have a lower rate of graduating from college in four years, with a rate similar to African Americans.”
This study is the latest step in an ongoing campaign to add nuance and understand to what we talk about when we talk about the API community in California.
“Collecting and disaggregating NHPI data by race and ethnic group is the first step toward understanding how to improve educational opportunities.”
You can read the entire study here.