OCA Disappointed, Concerned with Pew Research Center Study on Asian Americans

The following is text from a press release issued today by OCA:

OCA, a national organization dedicated to advancing the political, social, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs), is extremely disappointed and concerned with Pew Research Center’s recent report, The Rise of Asian Americans, which perpetuates misleading stereotypes of APAs.

In the report, shallow analysis based on self-report data of Asian Americans propagates the “model minority” stereotype in the very initial stages of its findings, stating: “Asian Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States.” While the consensus of less than 4,000 Asian Americans who had participated in this survey responded see the community as being on an upward trajectory by most socio-economic indicators, they do not represent the over 14.5 Asian Americans throughout the country.

What is particularly disturbing is that these types of broad generalizations can have serious implications in public policy, civil rights, as well as perpetuation of bias, discrimination, and racial tension between communities of color. Even though the study fills a void for more statistics and information on the APA community, the framing of the contextual data in the report is troublesome.

“We are deeply concerned with the Pew Research Center’s report on Asian Americans,” says OCA Executive Director, Tom Hayashi. “It is difficult to take the data at face value when the questions seem to play too perfectly into reinforcing the stereotypes of Asian Americans…the validity of the results are highly suspect in terms of how much we can truly rely on the self-report data cited in the results.”

Bimodal immigration, cultural as well as linguistic isolation must be one of many factors that should inform the data analysis to get a more accurate understanding of the community.

“While subjects can respond to questions on the phone, their attitudes, behaviors, or conditions faced by Asian Americans can be very different from that of the research results. The disagreements and doubts from the community about the survey is based on the incongruence with what we see in the community,” says Hayashi.

Asian American organizations should also be consulted in this type of research, and not just the scholars who at times have been known to have blinders or biases though an unintentionally supported series of self-fulfilling prophecies. We urge that investigators start with grounding the design of the research with a specific objective in mind, i.e. what value might be served to ask what Asian Americans think about the strictness of their own parenting or of their counterpart’s?

We believe that not all Asian Americans command the highest-income or are best-educated, yet we face one of the longest period of unemployment when we lose our jobs relative to other ethnic groups. And although we may be the fastest-growing racial group in the United States, we continue to face challenges posed by unfair immigration policies. The assertions that our community enjoys an exaggerated level of privilege are simply and unfortunately not the case. We call on accurate and responsible research that reflects the complexity of the community and does not solely rely on surveys that play into Asian American stereotypes.