When Data Makes the Difference

“Change only happens when you have a place at the table. And to have a place at the table, you need the evidence and the tools to make the case, to bring visibility to the invisible issues in our community.”

These words, which Mee Moua delivered at last week’s State of Asian Americans in Philadelphia launch event, got to the heart of a new national research project to “provide a detailed portrait of the Asian American community in the United States.”

Report cover

Moua is Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, one of several local and national organizations coordinating the wide release of A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the Northeast, 2013. This new report is currently being rolled out through a series of events, with the Philadelphia launch following a similar gathering in New York and preceding one in Boston scheduled later this week.

Disaggregated data—two words that can woo the sociologist and scare off the layperson—made plain sense in the context of this report. It was eye-opening to hear how disaggregation (or breaking down general data by race into discrete subsets) can make all the difference, as does other disaggregated data on race, gender, and geography.

Advancing Justice

It is troubling that although the U.S. Census Bureau now reports data on 23 distinct Asian American and 19 distinct NHPI (Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander) ethnic groups, public policy is still largely based on Asian Americans as a monolithic group.

The other big news regarding Asian Americans is their distinction as the country’s fastest growing racial group. In Philadelphia, according to the report, “between 2000 and 2010, both Asian American and NHPI populations grew significantly, increasing 43% and 32%, respectively. In contrast, the city’s total population grew just 1% over the same period.”

Asian Americans united

The numbers are reassuring for a Philadelphia resident like me: were it not for the arrival of Asian and other immigrants during the 2000s, this city would still be experiencing the population decline that had plagued it for decades.

This post has only skirted the surface of A Community of Contrasts, so we encourage you to download the report here to access data capturing the challenges and opportunities that Asian Americans face in the Northeast. The report also offers several policy recommendations worth checking out.


It is very likely that by acting on those recommendations, our leaders could bring many of our country’s underrepresented and invisible “to the table” and ensure they stay there.

Frontline Solutions

Frontline Solutions

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