Asians make up about 4.2 percent of the United States population, according to the 2000 Census. This translates to almost 12 million people who reported they were “Asian” or “Asian and at least one other race.” Among these, the largest ethnic groups were: Chinese, Filipino, Indians, and Vietnamese.
However, many experts believe that these census figures undercount Asian communities due to language-access barriers for non-English speakers, lack of reach among undocumented immigrants and other reporting problems.
Asians make up a large proportion of undocumented immigrants in this country. Among the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S., about 1.5 million, or 14 percent, are Asian. Broadly, this means that 12 percent of our entire community is undocumented, with the largest numbers concentrated in the Chinese, Filipino, Indian, and Korean communities.
At the same time, the Asian population is growing rapidly, due to both immigration and growth in the U.S.-born population. The Pew Research Center projects that by 2050 nearly one in five Americans (19 percent) will be an immigrant in 2050, compared with one in eight (12 percent) in 2005. The Center predicts that by 2050, 9 percent of the population will be Asian, growing to 41 million in 2050, nearly tripling its 2005 size. In addition, the Asian population is concentrated in a few key states (California, Hawaii, and Texas), with New York and the Tri-State area, as one of them.
All this highlights the importance of ensuring that Asian communities are not neglected in the 2010 Census. There are significant challenges — essentially, if you are poor or working-class and either an immigrant or person of color, your chances of being included in the Census are much lower than a white middle class/upper middle class resident. The Census Bureau itself estimates that the 2000 Census missed 6.4 million people, who were disproportionally people of color and poor, and counted 3.1 million people – largely white and affluent – twice.
Some of the hardest to count counties, according to the Census Bureau, are in New York City, which has three of the top four counties with the largest hard to count populations – Kings, Bronx, and New York Counties – and Queens is not that far down the list, as number 14. New York State overall is second in the numbers of “hard-to-count” residents, with an estimated 3.5 million people.
The Importance of the Census
The Census is ultimately about democracy (with a small “d”) which includes: districting and electoral politics; federal resources ranging from Medicare to job training and education; and state funding sources. This is only a small list of government services that rely on Census data. Because of the traditional undercount of low-income immigrants and communities of color, these communities have lost billions of dollars since 2000 that could have funded necessary programs.
At CAAAV, we see our 2010 Census work as a springboard to build empowered and sustainable communities – communities that can push for real government accountability and ensure that public officials meet the needs of low-income communities, promote just public policy and address deep-rooted inequality.
As a part of the national campaign, Yes We Count, we are working with New York City-based Right to the City member groups Domestic Workers United to make sure our communities are counted in the 2010 Census. We will be engaged in door-knocking in Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn, hold community events to increase awareness of the significance of participating in the census, and collecting pledges to fill out the census form.