LOS ANGELES — Answering President Obama’s call to improve opportunities and quality of life for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by increasing their participation in federal programs, UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center has published pioneering research examining the needs of this community’s underserved and underrepresented groups.
In a new issue of its highly regarded AAPI Nexus journal, the center spotlights ways to improve education, health, employment, housing, economic development and civil rights for traditionally underrepresented groups, including Native Hawaiians and Hmong Americans, and offers federal agencies guidance on identifying the needs of these groups and engaging them.
The publication of the journal’s special double issue, “Forging the Future: The Role of New Research, Data, and Policies for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders,” which features policy briefs by more than 50 leading scholars, applied researchers and community leaders from across the nation, coincides with the second anniversary of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), established by the president in October 2009.
UCLA joins White House officials in a special presentation of the new journal will take place on Oct. 28, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. The event, presented in partnership with the WHIAAPI and the Center for American Progress’ Progress 2050 initiative, can also be viewed via streaming video at http://bit.ly/v6SdTH.
At the presentation, UCLA professors Paul M. Ong and Marjorie Kagawa-Singer will join Obama administration officials, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Chris Lu, assistant to the president and a White House cabinet secretary, for a policy discussion featuring journal authors and community leaders.
“This special issue of the AAPI Nexus journal offers tremendous insight into challenges faced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders – challenges that our government needs to address,” said David K. Yoo, director of UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center. “We applaud President Obama’s leadership on this issue, and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center is proud to showcase engaged scholarship that comes from detailed study and informed debate.”
Policy must respond to changing demographics
“Forging the Future” is the most comprehensive publication to date on how Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) are impacted by demographic data trends and federal policy, the authors say.
According to the U.S. Census, the population of single-race Asian Americans grew from 10.2 million to more than 14.7 million between 2000 and 2010, a 43 percent increase, making this the fastest growing racial group in the nation. The population of single-race Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) increased by 35 percent during the same period.
It is projected that by 2050, the overall number of Asian Americans – both Asian alone or in combination with one or more other races – will nearly double to 40.6 million, constituting 9 percent of the U.S. population, up from 5.6 percent in 2010.
These trends hold important implications for both policy and politics, as public and private sector leaders face increasing demands to provide services relevant to a wide array of new populations, particularly those with different economic circumstances and cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Until 2000, the U.S. Census did not count certain groups as separate racial and sub-group categories, like Native Hawaiians or Hmong Americans. Even today, large federal agencies responsible for serving less fortunate Americans are not counting these groups in their surveys, leaving many in these categories largely detached from basic education, housing, employment and health care services they desperately need.
“Forging the Future” helps address these issues by presenting detailed studies involving some of the challenges faced by these underserved and underrepresented groups. Among the numerous research findings in the journal:
Vietnamese nail salon workers
Nail salon workers, who are largely Vietnamese immigrants, are exposed to unsafe amounts of toxic chemicals. Research by authors Julia Liou, Catherine A. Porter and Thu Quach found that employees work in the presence of methyl methacrylate, a compound banned by the federal Food and Drug Administration, and are exposed to an average level of the chemical toluene that is double the amount recommended by California’s Environmental Protection Agency for indoor air. As a result of this research, the WHIAAPI created the first inter-agency working group on nail salon worker health and safety.
Asian Americans and the housing crisis
With the collapse of housing prices after 2007 and the subsequent foreclosure crisis, the housing burden for Asian Americans has increased much faster than for whites. In 2009, 52 to 57 percent of Cambodian, Vietnamese, Thai, Hmong, Korean and Pakistani households were paying 30 percent or more of their income toward housing costs, compared with 34 percent of white households, notes author Melany De La Cruz-Viesca.
South East Asians and education
With regard to educational attainment, author Dina Maramba points out in her brief that the proportion of South East Asians with less than a high school education is considerably high: 59.6 percent among the Hmong; 53.3 percent among Cambodians; 49.6 percent among Laotians; and 38.1 percent among Vietnamese.
A complimentary electronic copy of the special journal edition can be downloaded at: http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/archives/nexusv9n1_2.asp.
“Forging the Future” was made possible through the generous support and sponsorship of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund; the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations; the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development; the Asian American/Asian Research Institute at City University of New York; the UCLA Asian American Studies Center; the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum; the Okura Mental Health Leadership Foundation; the Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership; the University of California’s Asian American Pacific Islander Policy Multi-Campus Research Program; the Ford Foundation Building Economic Security Over a Lifetime Initiative; the Institute for Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Boston; and the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.