The Deceptive Data on Asians

Source: Insider Higher Ed June 7, 2013

Scott Jaschik

When Harvard University issued a news release last month about the freshman class it had just admitted, the announcement included information about the racial and ethnic make-up of the newly admitted students. Asian-Americans, the release said, would make up 20.9 percent of the class. Native Hawaiians were grouped with Native Americans, and together those two groups would make up 2.3 percent.

When the College Board released its most recent report on SAT scores, racial and ethnic breakdowns were provided. In one category — with impressive mean scores — were Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islanders.

Both examples (and there are many more easily to be found) suggest Asian-American academic success. But a report released Thursday calls for the end to such data reporting. It is time to disaggregate data about Asian-American students as much as possible, says the report, issued by the Educational Testing Service and the National Commission on Asian-American and Pacific Islander Research in Education. The failure of most schools and colleges to do so has resulted in key problems facing Asian-American groups being “overlooked and misunderstood,” said Robert T. Teranishi, associate professor of higher education at New York University and principal investigator for the report, during a news briefing.

Aggregated data “conceals significant disparities,” Teranishi said.

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Inside Higher Ed



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The Religious Affiliation of U.S. Immigrants: Majority Christian, Rising Share of Other Faiths



Over the past 20 years, the United States has granted permanent residency status to an average of about 1 million immigrants each year. These new “green card” recipients qualify for residency in a wide variety of ways – as family members of current U.S. residents, recipients of employment visas, refugees and asylum seekers, or winners of a visa lottery – and they include people from nearly every country in the world. But their geographic origins gradually have been shifting. U.S. government statistics show that a smaller percentage come from Europe and the Americas than did so 20 years ago, and a growing share now come from Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East-North Africa region.

With this geographic shift, it is likely that the religious makeup of legal immigrants also has been changing. The U.S. government, however, does not keep track of the religion of new permanent residents. As a result, the figures on religious affiliation in this report are estimates produced by combining government statistics on the birthplaces of new green card recipients over the period between 1992 and 2012 with the best available U.S. survey data on the religious self-identification of new immigrants from each major country of origin.

While Christians continue to make up a majority of legal immigrants to the U.S., the estimated share of new legal permanent residents who are Christian declined from 68% in 1992 to 61% in 2012. Over the same period, the estimated share of green card recipients who belong to religious minorities rose from approximately one-in-five (19%) to one-in-four (25%). This includes growing shares of Muslims (5% in 1992, 10% in 2012) and Hindus (3% in 1992, 7% in 2012). The share of Buddhists, however, is slightly smaller (7% in 1992, 6% in 2012), while the portion of legal immigrants who are religiously unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular) has remained relatively stable, at about 14% per year.1

Unauthorized immigrants, by contrast, come primarily from Latin America and the Caribbean, and the overwhelming majority of them – an estimated 83% – are Christian. That share is slightly higher than the percentage of Christians in the U.S. population as a whole (estimated at just under 80% of U.S. residents of all ages, as of 2010).2

These are among the key findings of a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life examining recent trends in the geographic origins and religious affiliation of immigrants to the United States. (For information on religion among migrants not just in the U.S. but globally, see the Pew Research Center’s 2012 report “Faith on the Move: The Religious Affiliation of International Migrants.”)

About the Estimates

The U.S. government does not collect data on the religious affiliation of immigrants. However, estimates can be made using information gathered by the Department of Homeland Security on the countries of origin of new green card recipients. To estimate the religious breakdown of immigrants from each country, the Pew Research Center relied primarily on the New Immigrant Survey, a nationwide survey conducted in 2003 by scholars at the RAND Corporation, Princeton University, New York University and Yale University that asked more than 8,500 recent legal immigrants about their religion, among other questions.3

The use of survey data along with country-of-origin data improves the reliability of the estimates because, in some cases, the religious makeup of migrants differs from the religious composition of the overall population in their country of birth. This study does not automatically assume, for example, that if the population of Country A is 75% Muslim, then 75% of migrants from Country A to the United States must be Muslim. On the contrary, the study uses data from the New Immigrant Survey on the religious breakdown of new U.S. green card recipients to estimate the religious affiliation of the vast majority (95%) of legal immigrants.

On the other hand, the use of a single survey conducted at one point in time (albeit roughly in the middle of the 20-year period under examination) may introduce some time-related bias. In the absence of survey data on new immigrants from other years, this study assumes that throughout the period from 1992 to 2012, the religious breakdown of legal immigrants to the U.S. from each country of origin was the same as in 2003, at the time of the survey. For example, if the New Immigrant Survey found that 60% of new green card recipients from Country B were Christian and 40% were Buddhist, then those percentages were applied to the number of new green card recipients from Country B in every year from 1992 to 2012. This means that all of the estimated change in the religious makeup of legal immigrants reported in this study is a result of shifts in their geographic origins. This study is unable to capture any changes that may have occurred in the religious mix of migrants from a particular country.

Other evidence attests to some of the broad patterns identified by the study, however. For example, Pew Research Center surveys of U.S. Muslims in 2007 and 2011 suggest that the number of Muslims living in the United States rose in that four-year period by about 300,000 adults and 100,000 children, to a total of about 2.75 million Muslims of all ages – a rate of increase that is in line with the estimates in this report and would be difficult to explain without rising immigration. Similarly, a Pew Research Center survey of Asian Americans in 2012, combined with U.S. Census data, suggests that the number of Hindus in the United States has been increasing in large part due to rising immigration over the past two decades.

To reflect some of the uncertainty inherent in the estimates, all population numbers in this report are rounded to the nearest 10,000 and percentages are rounded to whole numbers.

For more explanation of how the estimates were calculated, see the methodology.

A Milestone En Route to a Majority Minority Nation

by Paul Taylor and D’Vera Cohn

The minority groups that carried President Obama to victory yesterday by giving him 80% of their votes are on track to become a majority of the nation’s population by 2050, according to projections by the Pew Research Center. They currently make up 37% of the population, and they cast a record 28% of the votes in the 2012 presidential election, according to the election exit polls.

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How many minorities are there in the USA?

Prompted by Andrea Mitchell’s complaint that Iowa is not representative of America in racial terms the Audacious Epigone probed an American state’s typicality in terms of racial demographics, using the overall American population as a measure. One of the major issues with judging the typicality of a given state is that there is a great deal of residential segregation in even “diverse” regions. This comes up in our personal choices too. In 2008  ~10 percent of non-Hispanic whites married someone who was not a non-Hispanic white. Obviously more than ~10 percent of the population, particularly in the prime marrying demographic, are non-Hispanic whites, so you’re seeing a fair amount of  homogamy. In some ways the homogamy is even more striking for minorities. ~31 percent of Asian Americans in this period married a non-Asian American. But, one has to keep in mind that using the American population as representative over 90 percent of the potential marriage partners are not Asian American!

The quest for a state that “looks like America” is understandable, but the reality of lived life is more complex. And not just in racial terms (e.g., the division in politics between the white suburbs of Maryland vs. Virginia on either side of D.C.). But keeping race in mind, one consistent finding in social science is that Americans actually tend to overestimate the number of minorities. Iowa is actually more typical than we think, despite the fact that it is not typical. In the year 2000 the General Social Survey asked respondents to estimate the number of various groups in the USA. The finding of a tendency to overestimate minorities, and underestimate non-Hispanic whites, was confirmed. But, I decided to break this down by demographic. The results are below in a table.

The first row are real counts from the 2000 Census. All the following rows are average estimates of a set of respondents in the year 2000.


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Asian Americans now country’s fastest growing racial group

LA Times
Asian Americans now country’s fastest growing racial group
October 26, 2011 | 2:59 pm

Increased immigration from South Asia helped fuel the rapid growth in the number of Asian Americans over the last decade as well as an influx of Asians to states such as Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data released Wednesday.

Growing numbers of Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis and other South Asians highlight the increasing diversity of Asian Americans in the U.S. and the need for policymakers to understand that diversity, according to “A Community of Contrasts,” published by the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.

Looking at Asian Americans as a single group masks the distinct social and economic needs of the various ethnicities involved, said Dan Ichinose, director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center’s Demographic Research Project. For example, while 23% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi Americans lack health insurance, only 8% of Japanese Americans do.

And while 26% of Hmong Americans and 20% of Bangladeshi Americans live below the poverty line, only 6% of Filipinos and 8% of Indians do.

“Despite many success stories in our communities, there are real needs,” Ichinose said. “Asian Americans are increasingly a population that policymakers and service providers need to account for in their planning.”

According to the report, which used 2010 Census, American Community Survey and other government data, immigration, both legal and illegal, has fueled most of the population growth. Approximately 60% of Asian Americans are foreign-born and about 1 million are undocumented, according to the report.

Among the undocumented, those from the Philippines, India, South Korea and China make up the largest numbers.

Though California’s population of more than 5.5 million Asian Americans remained the country’s largest, several other states showed significant growth over the last decade. The population of Asian Americans in Nevada more than doubled, while in Arizona it almost doubled.

Southern states, including Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama, also showed rapid growth. Helen Kim Ho, executive director of the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, which opened last year in Georgia, moved to Atlanta with her family when she was in middle school.

At the time, she said, she was the only Asian American in her school and only one store in town sold Asian foods. Now, she said, there are “maybe a dozen mega markets” that serve Asian Americans.

“The face of Georgia has literally changed,” she said, but things like social services and government services have lagged. “We’re not getting the kind of support that we need,” she said. “Hopefully that will change sooner or later.”