Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the Midwest (2012)

Dramatic growth in the nation’s Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) populations is occurring throughout the country. In states like California, New York, and Hawai’i, large Asian American and NHPI communities established around the turn of the century continue to grow. In other states, smaller Asian American and NHPI communities are growing at even faster rates. Indeed, rates of Asian American and NHPI population growth in the Midwest exceed those in California, New York, and Hawai’i. Policy makers and service providers in states like Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin must understand emerging Asian American and NHPI communities if they are to meet the rapidly changing needs of those they serve.

A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the Midwest, 2012 is the third in an ongoing series of reports that attempt to promote a more sophisticated understanding of Asian Americans and NHPI and their needs. Focused on the Midwest, the report compiles the latest data on growing Asian American and NHPI communities in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, the Twin Cities (Minneapolis–St. Paul), and the state of Wisconsin. These areas were chosen based on the size of their Asian American and NHPI communities and the presence of community partners with the capacity to use the information to pursue change. How large have Asian American and NHPI communities grown over the past decade? How have they contributed to the Midwest economy? What are their social service needs? Are language barriers likely to affect their ability to access those services?

The report has two primary goals.

First, it provides disaggregated data on discrete Asian American and NHPI ethnic groups where available. Given considerable social and economic diversity among Asian Americans and NHPI, data aggregated by racial group often mask the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities. For example, lower poverty rates among Asian  Americans as a racial group cause many to overlook higher poverty rates among Southeast Asian Americans as distinct ethnic groups. Providing these data makes these
needs easier to understand and address.

Second, this report attempts to make data on immigration, language, education, income, employment, housing, and health more accessible to community organizations, policy makers, government agencies, foundations, businesses, and other stakeholders. It does this by compiling key measures of well-being drawn from a variety of  government and academic sources in a single publication and presenting these data in a simplified manner accessible to those outside the university.

Given the breadth of information included in this report, it draws on numerous sources. Much of the data come from the U.S. Census Bureau, including the 2010 Census, American Community Survey, Survey of Business Owners, and Current Population Survey. Other sources include the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Illinois State Board of Education, Michigan Department of Community Health, Minnesota Department of Health, Ohio Department of Health, Wisconsin Office of Health Informatics, Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, and the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

Together these data paint a fuller, more nuanced picture of one of the country’s fastest growing and most diverse racial groups. They will help stakeholders throughout the Midwest better respond to and serve our community of contrasts.


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Advancing Justice - LA’s hotlines prioritize assistance to low-income persons in the following areas of law: family, immigration, consumer, public benefits, employment, housing, and civil rights.

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Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.