Collecting Meaningful Data about Asians: A Response to a Federal Request for Comment

Map of South Asia

In this blog post I’m responding to the March 1, 2017 request for comments on the Revision of Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity: Proposals From Federal Interagency Working Group. Most specifically I want to address the question:

“If issuing specific guidelines for the collection of detailed Asian race and ethnicity data, should OMB adopt the 2010 Decennial Census and NCT format, which includes separately Chinese, Filipino, Asian Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, and an “other Asian” category?  (2) If not, how should OMB select the detailed Asian race and ethnicity categories?
Footnote 2 The checkboxes used in Census 2010 were Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Other Asian with five additional examples of Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, and Cambodian.”

Based upon my study and experience, I recommend that OMB use the Census of 2010 with two changes: replace the term “Asian Indianwith a new category of “South Asian” and redefine “Other Asian” to not include Pakistani. 

The checkboxes used would be Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, South Asian (with additional examples of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, 
Maldives, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka), and Other Asian (with four additional examples of Hmong, Laotian, Thai, and Cambodian).

I particularly recommend that OMB use the term “South Asian” because it is a common term used colloquially and it is a standardized term used in international research.

Historic and Cultural Background

The Indian Sub-Continent has a shared genetic and cultural history. The ancient Indian kingdoms spanned the subcontinent from Afghanistan east through Bangladesh and north to the Himalayas. While Sri Lanka has always remained independent of the Indian government, the people trace their origins to settlers from India.

The existence of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), is evidence that the term South Asian is meaningful as a racial category. The SAARC Charter explains that the nations of the region are “Aware of the common problems, interests and aspirations of the peoples of SOUTH ASIA and the need for joint action and enhanced cooperation within their respective political and economic systems and cultural traditions.” (Charter of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).

South Asian is a term currently used by United States academics. For example, the Claremount McKenna College hosts the South Asian Studies Association (SASA), a US-based alliance of international university scholars focused on South Asian history, culture, governance, economics, religions philosophy, and arts. Other examples of US-based programs about South Asian studies include the UC Berkeley’s Institute for South Asian Studies, the University of Michigan’s Center for South Asian Studies. Brown University’s Center for Contemporary South Asia, and Harvard University’s Department of South Asian Studies.

International Medical and Public Health Research

By using the term South Asian, the United States would be able to participate in the ongoing international study of ethnic variations in disease. For example, a 2007 study linked statistical information on individual ethnic group from (a) the 2001 Scottish Census with (b) Scottish hospital discharge and mortality data in order to investigate ethnic variations myocardial infarction, specifically comparing the variable risks between (a) Whites and (b) South Asians living in Scotland. The researchers were able to cross reference data from two agencies and four databases. (Fischbacher, et al., “Record Linked Retrospective Cohort Study Of 4.6 Million People Exploring Ethnic Variations In Disease: Myocardial Infarction In South Asians,” BMC Public Health Published online 2007 Jul 5. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-7-142).

Canadian, New Zealand, Finland, and other nations have provided researchers with standardized data that led to studies of medical variations between whites and South Asians. (see, Khan, et al. “Outcomes After Acute Myocardial Infarction in South Asian, Chinese, and White Patients Clinical Perspective,” Circulation 122.16 (2010): 1570-1577.)

(See also: Gholap, et al., “Survival in South Asian and White European Patients after Acute Myocardial Infarction,” 

Breakthroughs in medical research could be made by effectively linking ethic data across nations. By using the term “South Asians” in data collection, the United States will be better able to participate in this valuable international research. 


I strongly recommend that OMB replace the existing category of “Asian” by creating checkboxes for Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, South Asian (with additional examples of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka), and Other Asian (with four additional examples of Hmong, Laotian, Thai, and Cambodian).

Kumar Jayasuryia is writing as a Sri Lankan-American born in the United States who has earned both a JD and a Masters in Library and Information Science. he has professional expertise regarding the collection, preservation, and use of data. In 2015 he was the primary editor of Big Data, Big Challenges in Evidence-Based Policy Making, a multi-disciplinary study of how to glean insights from massive data sets to make better public policy decisions. Currently Kumar is a Knowledge Management Attorney for the law firm of Baker Donelson. In this position he designs systems to use big data for predictive modeling. Kumar is also a member of the AAA-Fund Executive Board of the Asian American Action Fund. 

AAA-Fund Stands with Planned Parenthood to Protect Women’s Health Care

Press Release today from Planned Parenthood reads:

Planned Parenthood Federation of America condemned President Donald Trump’s signing of a measure designed to undermine women’s health and overturn a rule that reinforced protections for the more than 4 million people who rely on Title X, the nation’s family planning program, for their health care.

The bill signed by President Trump today does not “defund” Planned Parenthood. That is a separate issue. However, this latest move could embolden states to try to block access to health care through Title X, both at Planned Parenthood health centers and independent clinics. These types of actions are already illegal, as a court in Florida found just this past summer.

Statement from Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“People are sick and tired of politicians making it even harder for them to access health care, and this bill is just the latest example. Planned Parenthood strongly opposes President Trump’s willingness to undermine millions of women’s access to birth control through the Title X family planning program. Four million people depend on the Title X family planning program, and by signing this bill, President Trump disregards their health and well-being.

“We should build on the tremendous progress made in this country with expanded access to birth control, instead of enacting policies  that take us backward.  Too many women still face barriers to health care, especially young women, women of color, those who live in rural areas, and women with low incomes.”

“Women marched in historic numbers the day after the inauguration because they feared the worst. Their worst fears are now coming true. We are facing the worst political attack on women’s health in a generation as lawmakers have spent the past three months trading away women’s health and rights at every turn. That’s why women are the core of the resistance and have have been organizing and speaking out since the day after the election. They know speaking up and speaking out can change the direction of this government.”

In less than three months, the Trump administration and anti-women’s health Members of Congress have taken unprecedented steps to rip away women’s access to health care:

  • Trump reinstated and expanded the harmful global gag rule, meaning a wide range of health organizations combating HIV or the spread of Zika will be banned from all U.S. global health funding if they also happen to provide counseling, referrals, or services for safe and legal abortion.
  • The House considered a bill to repeal the ACA that was the worst piece of legislation for women in a generation, prohibiting women from getting care at Planned Parenthood through the Medicaid program, kicking millions off insurance, ending  maternity coverage for millions of women, and imposing a ban on insurance coverage for abortion.
  • Extremists in Congress attempted to revive the failed ACA repeal bill by trading away women’s health and proposing to gut the essential health benefits provision, which would roll back maternity care, raise insurance rates for women and reduce access to birth control and other reproductive health care.
  • President Trump jammed through an extreme and anti-women’s health nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court, endangering women’s access to abortion and birth control in the years to come.
  • The Trump administration quietly eliminated U.S. funding for UNFPA, an organization whose mission is to champion maternal and child health across the globe.

– See more at: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/planned-parenthood-condemns-president-trumps-signing-of-bill-that-threatens-health-care-protections-for-4-million-title-x-family#sthash.VJJQYr8c.dpuf

Asian American Action Fund Calls for Investigation and Response to the Recent Actions of United Airlines and the Chicago O’Hare Police

In light of yesterday’s brutal assault on Dr. David Dao in the Chicago O’Hare Airport, the Asian American Action Fund (AAA-Fund) calls for an investigation into the actions, motivation, and behavior of the United Airlines employees and O’Hare Airport’s Aviation Police.

Upon the request of United Airlines staff, the O’Hare Airport’s Aviation Police forcibly dragged a paying customer out of his seat, bloodying and possibly concussing him in the process. Dr. Dao, the customer in question, was twice dragged off the flight, the second time on a stretcher. Dr Dao expressed the belief that racial animus and not random chance was the reason he was singling out for forcible removal.

The use of force against an Asian American traveler is a symptom of a nation which tolerates violence against minorities. AAA-Fund calls for an investigation to determine if there is systematic racism in the O’Hare police force or within the United Airlines organization. We also call on O’Hare and United to engage in training to diffuse conflict without violence and how to recognize and counter systematic racism.

Police on United Airlines

Join us in support of Betty Yee on April 3

Please join us for a meet & greet reception for California State Controller Betty Yee

Hosted by

  • Asian American Action Fund (AAA-Fund)
  • Congresswoman Judy Chu
  • America’s Opportunity Fund (AOF) and 

Monday, April 3, 2017

7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

The 201 Bar – State Room

201 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002

RSVP to dailysmith@gmail.com or (310) 497-8162

Tweets from https://twitter.com/AAAFund/lists/candidates
Tweets from https://twitter.com/AAAFund/lists/orgs


Our Facebook Page @AAAFund

Official statements.