Racial and Ethnic Data Coming Your Way! (Just Not as Soon as You Think)

Feb 25 Racial and Ethnic Data Coming Your Way! (Just Not as Soon as You Think)

Riamsalio Kao Phetchareun

(Second in our Series: "Making Sense of the Census for Southeast Asian Americans")

As the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse, issues of racial and ethnic data (dis)aggregation and classification are ever more important to historically underrepresented communities, such as Southeast Asian Americans, who have long argued that only through data disaggregation can the true picture of our community be uncovered. For example, disaggregated data reveals that only 61.5% of Cambodian, 61.7% of Hmong, 62.5% of Laotian, and 70% of Vietnamese Americans aged 25 and over hold a high school degree or higher compared to 85.8% of the overall Asian American population (according to the American Community Survey, 2009 1-year estimates). Not quite the model minority that we are often assumed to be.

Understandably, Southeast Asian American community members are anxious to know when the race and ethnicity data from the 2010 Census will be released. As the Research and Special Projects Manager at SEARAC, I have been getting regular inquiries about these numbers. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait a little longer. June 2011 is the slated release date for population counts for 63 race categories. This can be frustrating for those of us who are impatient (i.e., me) and who want to see what the next generation of Southeast Asian Americans looks like demographically and geographically.

So, why do we have to wait until June for this information?

Primarily, it is because the Census Bureau is currently preoccupied with rolling out its redistricting data to the states, which is important because this data impacts the redrawing of Congressional districts, as described in my previous ­  pos  t. Redistricting data is released on a flow (rolling) basis. To see which states the Census Bureau has released redistricting data for so far, click here.

The Census will continue to release additional data gradually throughout the year.

For me, it is helpful to think of the Census Bureau’s data announcements in terms of their scope and related impact. Here is a snapshot of what the Census data announcements timeline looks like:

Data Announcement What is the scope?        What will this impact? When will it be released?         
Total U.S. resident population, State population totals National, State Apportionment– These numbers are used to divide the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the states so that each member of the House represents, on average, the same portion of the population.

End of 2010

(Already released)

State redistricting information

(Population totals at all levels of the state­ – including cities and counties – and information on race, Hispanic origin and voting age)

State, Local Redistricting– States will redraw Congressional districts based on these numbers. April 1, 2011

Demographic Profile

(Selected population and housing characteristics will be available)

National, State, and other large geographic regions Agencies, researchers, and other interested parties will get a better view of the demographics of the population in terms of age, race, gender, housing, and race and Hispanic origin based on these numbers. May 2011

Summary File 1

(Population counts for 63 race categories and Hispanic or Latino; more population and housing characteristics released)
All Census tract levels Detailed demographic information will be released. June 2011
























For a quick glance at the Census Bureau’s own timeline click here.

All in all, we won’t be able to see exactly what the makeup of Southeast Asian Americans looks like across the country until June 2011, but we shouldn’t also forget about the important impact of these other data sets on our communities. 

For more reading:

The complexity of capturing data by race is currently hotly debated. For more information, check out this New York Times article, "Counting By Race Can Throw Off Some Numbers." 

"A 'Mixed-Race' Nation Isn't the Same as a Post-Race One," is a Colorlines blog post which argues that despite living in a more racially mixed society, young people today still recognize that racial disparities endure.

"Racial and Ethnic Data Coming Your Way! (Just Not as Soon as You Think)" is the second post in our series “Making Sense of the Census for Southeast Asian Americans.” Make sure to check back for more Census posts soon!



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