Team undertakes extensive survey of Asian Americans

May 31, 2016
By: Kathleen Maclay

UC Berkeley political scientist and professor of law Taeku Lee is part of a team leading a newly announced, expanded study of the experiences and attitudes of Asian Americans in the most extensive look to date at the nation’s fastest-growing racial group.

The research, backed with $507,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation, will be conducted this year and published in summer 2017. It aims to provide important data for questions about the immigrant experience, attitudes on economic inequality and race-relations, and civic and political engagement.

A new survey will explore the attitudes and experiences of Asian Americans, whose 2010 population state-by-state is shown in the map above. (Wikimedia Commons image by Ali Zifan)

Between 2000 and 2010, the Asian American population in the U.S. grew by 46 percent, compared to a 10 percent growth rate for the overall population. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders continue to exhibit the highest population growth rates, fueled by immigration, and number more than 20 million residents, or more than 6 percent of the population. By 2065, demographers estimate that Asian Americans will comprise about 14 percent of the U.S. population.

Role in presidential selection

As a share of voters, Asian Americans have been the fastest- growing electorate over the last five U.S. presidential elections, increasing from 1.7 million voters in 1996 to 3.9 million by 2012.

The team conducting the new survey includes UC Berkeley’s Lee; principal investigator Karthick Ramakrishnan, associate dean of public policy and a professor of political science at UC Riverside; Jennifer Lee, a professor of sociology at UC Irvine; and Janelle Wong, a professor in the American Studies Program at the University of Maryland.

The study will expand upon the National Asian American Survey, which was first conducted in 2008 and repeated in 2012. The NAAS is a scientific and nonpartisan effort to poll Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and is the only nationally representative, academic survey of this population.

Out of the shadows

“Arguably the nation’s most dynamic and diverse population, the views and experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) remain largely relegated to the shadows,” said Lee. “With data from this quadrennial project, the 2016 NAAS promises to shed critical light on the social, economic and political life and civic engagement of AAPIs.”

Participants will be asked about personal experiences and attitudes related to immigration to the United States, inter- and intra-group relations and attitudes, civic and political involvement, party affiliation, voting behavior, health and financial status, racial and ethnic identification, discrimination, stereotypes, beliefs about racial and class-based inequality and affirmative action.

The NSF grant will allow researchers to study Asian Americans, who are often ignored in research projects because of their small and statistically unreliable sample sizes in other national and longitudinal surveys, said Ramakrishnan. The results, he noted, also will enable comparisons of Asian Americans with three more thoroughly studied groups: African Americans, Latinos and non-Hispanic whites.

His team will survey approximately 3,600 individuals representing the six largest U.S. Asian ethnic groups, who account for more than 80 percent of Asian American adults: Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese. The telephone survey will be conducted in at least 11 languages.

Asian Americans comprise more than 20 distinct ethnic groups and exhibit greater socioeconomic diversity than any other U.S. racial group.