Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as a group of groups, are the most diverse of all minority groups. In faCT, There are good reasons for believing this is not really a "group" in any meaningful sense. Their range of diversity spans Native Hawaiians and members of the far-reaching Pacific Islands, who have distinct cultures and community ethos still intact and attached to particular locations. As the AAPI population has grown, it has become increasingly clear that AAPI communities vary by immigration patterns, socioeconomic status, educational attainment, wealth accumulation, and much more.

AAPI is a federal category. Because it is a broad group, statistical studies often underestimate the significant achievement by some subpopulations and overestimate the success of others. For example, college degrees earned by Asian Americans are 44% compared to 21% for Pacific Islanders. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders also fit into a niche where they are either very well paid or very poorly paid. This is very distinctive within the AAPI category, with Asian Americans having much higher salaries than Pacific Islanders.

The Asian American and Pacific Islander designation also includes immigrants that came to the United States beginning in the mid 1800s and extending through today. Viewing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as one homogenous group, which is dominated by a few large subpopulations, tends to mask the complex needs that are required by some of the small subpopulations.

By definition, Asian Americans are those individuals with origins in the Far East. This geographical distinction encompasses Southeast Asia, or the Indian Subcontinent, including Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Laos, Burma, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam. Dr. Kannankutty showed the diversity of this group by highlighting no fewer than seventeen different ethnic backgrounds.

Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI) are defined as those individuals with origins tracing to any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa or the Pacific Islands, including Australia and New Zealand. This group was shown to contain at least eleven diverse ethnic backgrounds.

East Asian groups have been brought to America as laborers, Southeast Asians and Indians arrived as professionals, and recent immigrant groups have come to the United States to contribute to the information technology workforce. Thus, there is a large range of first-generation immigrants whose needs are unique, depending on the subgroup. Asian can mean a range of nations with extremely different cultures. In addition, it is important to support the population of second-generation Asian Americans who are trying to integrate the needs of both cultures.

There are some 12.5 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are in the United States and 95% of them live in metropolitan areas. t Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are more likely to graduate from high school than whites and are least likely to drop out. The poverty rate of Asian American and Pacific Islander families, at 14%, is higher than that of whites (8%). Many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders lack such essentials as health insurance.

According to recent Census Bureau statistics, AAPI incidence in the U.S. population has risen from 2.9 percent in 1990 to 4.4 percent in 2002. Compared to other ethnic groups, relatively high proportions of Asian American and Pacific Islander students are taking high school math and science courses. Therefore, the conclusion can be drawn that some of the AAPI population is preparing for participation in science and engineering at the college level.

There has been significant growth in participation by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in science and engineering occupations. Between 1993 and 1999 there was an increase of approximately 200,000 individuals in science and engineering fields. Most of this growth was in computer/math occupations and engineering occupations. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were shown to be working mostly in the industrial sector, which reported the highest median salaries for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, as is the case for all groups.

The ‘glass ceiling’ affects Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders differently, depending on the segment of the workforce with which they are associated, be it industry, academe, or government. It was suggested that beyond that, the complex diversity of the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders could present an even greater challenge in addressing overall success. The Vietnamese are less linguistically advanced than the Hmong. It is suggested that this has to do with the settlement patterns of the Vietnamese, who tend more to stay together in smaller units in an attempt to retain their culture. The Hmong households tend to be larger than Vietnamese households and therefore are more likely to have someone in the unit who speaks English.

One barrier to higher education for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is that many of the parents are not literate in their own native tongues or in English, making it difficult for them or their children to succeed in higher education. Another factor involves the location where new and often poor immigrants are resettled. Frequently, it is in poor areas, where the newcomers follow the path, educationally and otherwise, of their lower income neighbors.

Many do not feel a sense of community with Americans, and as a result they tend to stick to their own communities. It is not a matter of being social; rather it is an issue of being more comfortable with one’s own culture and people. This is why there are pockets of populations such as Chinatown or Little Saigon [along the lines of Little Italy]. The first generation is resistant to feeling isolated or blending into the dominant society, so they often decline to socialize with their non-Asian colleagues.

The distrust Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders might encounter varies depending on the kind of work they do. In the 1960s, there was much distrust of those considered to be foreigners. National security concerns contributed to mistrust. At one time, the threat of the era was “the evil Russian empire.” Now, it is perceived as the economic threat posed by Asia. Concern for national security and a lack of trust and understanding are at the heart of the problem.

In some Asian American and Pacific Islander cultures, it is generally not considered wise to express negative feelings or bring attention to negative situations. It is often considered to be better to be evasive or even dishonest, rather than lose face or bring about dishonor by describing a negative situation with accuracy.

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Page last modified: 24-09-2017 18:55:44 ZULU