News: Data, Research & Evaluation

New Recommendations for Asian American and Pacific Islander Data Collection and Reporting

Wednesday, June 10, 2020  
Posted by: Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation
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Data and representation are closely intertwined; after all, data are a representation of real-world phenomena. Data have the power to both obscure and illuminate.

The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) have new recommendations for how the federal government’s data collection and reporting around Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students can make sure every one of those students is seen. The report has implications for how NCAN members collect and report data for these students as well.

“[C]urrent postsecondary data systems aggregate the AAPI communities in ways that mask inequities in outcomes,” the report notes. “The Census reports data on at least 25 distinct, self-identified AAPI groups, each with unique linguistic, cultural, and historical differences that often influence AAPIs’ outcomes and opportunities throughout their lives.” Despite this, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) only reports AAPI students as “Asian” or "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander."

The upshot is that: “These current data collection and reporting policies perpetuate the myth of the ‘model minority,’ which posits that Asian Americans have overcome racism through hard work and education and should serve as the model for other minority groups. This myth diminishes the diversity that exists within the AAPI community and over-aggregates their experiences by masking—and thus perpetuating—inequities in how postsecondary systems serve students.”

The report recommends that at "at a minimum, IPEDS should require colleges and universities to disaggregate race data for AAPI ethnic groups based on the nine categories listed as checkbox options in the decennial Census and the American Community Survey (ACS)."

These categories are:

  • Chinese
  • Filipino
  • Asian Indian
  • Vietnamese
  • Korean
  • Japanese
  • Native Hawaiian
  • Samoan; and
  • Chamorro.

Two additional checkbox options also include “Other Asian” and “Other Pacific Islander,” which allow respondents to self-identify.

NCAN members would be well-served to implement this reform as well. For programs serving smaller numbers or proportions of AAPI students, overarching “Asian” or “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander” categories with disaggregates would be a fair compromise. After all, it will be some time before we have postsecondary benchmarks for specific Asian subgroups.

The report also recommends that the U.S. Department of Education revise how institutions report data to IPEDS and that institutions themselves begin to reform their data collection.

Disaggregating AAPI students reveals important outcome disparities among subgroups that practice can address. Government, institutions, and practitioners can all play a role in shining a light on these disparities in much the same way that examining outcomes among other broad categories of race and ethnicity has done for decades.