Asian American Data Disaggregation at House Bill 3361 Hearing


PRESS CONTACTS: – 617.259.1503 – 617.635.5129 – 617.482.2380


Disaggregated data would help better serve Commonwealths diverse Asian American community

Today, a broad coalition of multiracial and multiethnic constituents, advocates, service providers, and allies testified at a State House public hearing to voice strong support for H.3361 that will enable the Commonwealth to collect disaggregated data for the largest Asian American and Pacific Islander groups.
As community leaders and members, we support data disaggregation because we understand the impact of increased representation for underserved and underrepresented members within Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

Community advocates within the Asian American community have called for data disaggregation for decades. We thank all the Representatives who co-sponsored this bill, including all members of the Asian American Caucus: Rep. Tackey Chan, Rep. Donald H. Wong, Rep. Paul A. Schmid, III, Rep. Keiko M. Orrall, Rep. Rady Mom, Sen. Jason M. Lewis, Sen. Barbara A. L’Italien, Rep. Joseph W. McGonagle, Jr., Rep. Steven S. Howitt, Rep. Kay Khan, Rep. Paul R. Heroux, Sen. James B. Eldridge, Rep. Marjorie C. Decker, Rep. Byron Rushing, Rep. Daniel Cahill, Rep. Kevin G. Honan, Rep. Bruce J. Ayers, and Rep. Elizabeth A. Malia. We also appreciate the support of the entirety of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus as well as Rep. Steven R. Ultrino.

While the U.S. is racially diverse, we cannot overlook the fact that the experiences and realities of Asian American and Pacific Islander ethnic subgroups vary greatly. As anti-immigration sentiments and policies are on the rise nationally, it is all the more critical for the Commonwealth to protect our immigrant communities — but without accurate data, it is difficult to understand the needs of each of these communities. These realities are outlined by researchers at UMass-Boston’s Institute for Asian American Studies using the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey:

  • When attempting to understand Massachusetts Asian Americans as a conglomerate, the overall median household income would be $81,505, but disaggregated data accounts for the two largest Southeast Asian refugee communities in the Commonwealth with median household incomes of $56,895 and $57,290 for Vietnamese and Cambodians, respectively.
  • When clumping all Asian Americans together, 35% reported that they spoke English less than “very well,” whereas 61.2% of Vietnamese reported higher levels of limited English proficiency.
  • The combined Asian American family poverty rate in Massachusetts was found to be 8.4%, whereas disaggregated data specified poverty rates of 15.6% for Vietnamese families and 16.7% of Cambodian families.
  • Educational attainment among Asian American subgroups varies greatly, but without disaggregation of data, 57.5% of Asian Americans in Massachusetts have a Bachelor’s or higher; data disaggregation puts these numbers at 25.9% and 14.9% for Vietnamese and Cambodians, respectively.

As these data points show, “Asians” as an all-encompassing label fails to reflect the wide disparities
among ethnic subgroups. While the above disaggregated statistics have been collected at the federal level, there is still a need for much more critical data to be collected at the state level through Commonwealth agencies. These statistics based on disaggregated data allow us to target services to address the unique economic, social and health needs of underserved Asian communities.


“As with the Asian American community, our Black and Latino communities are extremely diverse…
While the federal Census provides us with some level of disaggregated data by ethnic group, it is not enough, and our state agencies need to fill the void. The accuracy of the upcoming 2020 Census is at
stake given that critical suggestions to improve the ways we collect racial and ethnic data may not be implemented.”

State Representative Frank Moran, 17th Essex District; Chair, Black and Latino Caucus

“We seek to provide targeted and effective services to each of these unique communities, but we are hamstrung in our efforts by a singular Asian category.”
State Representative Steve Ultrino, 33rd Middlesex District

“As policy makers and service providers strive to address the needs of our diverse communities, it is important to have disaggregated data to inform that work. From healthcare to education and housing, serving different segments of the AAPI community means unmasking averages to show outcomes and disparities by language and cultural community. Equity requires specificity.”
Michelle Wu – Boston City Councilor At-Large

“For many of my constituents, English is not their first language. They require language assistance and have needs related to the issues of health, education, and social services. Accurate and detailed data on the demographics of our diverse communities will help public officials and government to properly serve our constituents and make informed decisions.”
Ed Flynn – Boston City Councilor, District Two

“In the field of education we are continuously working to address achievement and opportunity gaps. The model minority myth masks the needs of different groups and if we’re not looking at disaggregated data on an institutional level, we miss opportunities to address the needs of our students. Disaggregated data is also important in making sure that we have educators who reflect our student populations and are able to speak their language.”
Jessica Tang – President, Boston Teachers Union

“Most cities and counties in Massachusetts do not have large enough populations to enable this kind of analysis using federal data collections, such as the American Community Survey collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. State and local data collections of detailed Asian origin are critical to fill these gaps, and to help formulate and implement policies that benefit local populations. It is also critical that such data be collected and disseminated in a manner that protects individual privacy and ensures data security, consistent with safeguards on other types of state and local data collections.
Karthick Ramakrishnan – Director, AAPI Data; Professor of Public Policy

“The only reason we have any data about our populations at all is that community leaders have advocated for more detailed and better data for decades. The disaggregation of Asian data is not a new issue; in fact, it dates back at least to the federal government’s release of the Heckler report in 1985, when Asians and Pacific Islanders were reported to have better health outcomes than all other groups. That faulty assumption was based on small samples of aggregate data, which hid the very real health disparities that different Asian populations faced. Data alone are agnostic. Data alone help us interpret and understand the truth about our communities. Data alone do not cause inequality, but can help us better understand it.”
Giles Li – Director, Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center

“Vietnamese Americans are more likely to have Hepatitis B than other populations. These data points, along with others, is what guides the guide to determine the services we provide and partnership we make in order to help mitigate issues around mental health, housing, economic development and education/youth services that our community needs. For many of the families that we serve, our ability to know the conditions that affect them saves their lives.”
Lisette Le – Executive Director, Vietnamese American Initiative for Development

“CPA helped lead the 10-year struggle for permanent bilingual ballots, and we have seen how it important these are for voters to be able to vote independently and free of coercion. If the City of Boston did not collect disaggregated data on Asian Americans, they would not know how many Chinese and Vietnamese ballots are needed in which polling locations. While this is just one example, this can be easily apply to other services and rights such as health and education.”
Karen Chen – Director, Chinese Progressive Association

“We believe that AAPI communities are stronger together when we understand both our shared struggles and issues that affect particular ethnic groups. Our organization both runs programs for the Asian American community broadly, as well as programs that specifically support Vietnamese American young adults and South Asian young adults. We know that Vietnamese refugees, and other Southeast Asian refugees from the Vietnam War, experience a distinct set of barriers in the US, and we believe that disaggregated data will allow us to better support this community.”
Carolyn Chou – Director, Asian American Resource Workshop

“Without disaggregation of Asians, we are not able to study opportunity and outcomes for those who came to the US by choice (such as for graduate education) vs those who came as war refugees (such as from Cambodia and Vietnam), two very different circumstances that are currently indistinguishable without collection of ethnicity. If the state routinely collected information about residents’ ethnicity (and generation number, how they self-identify, and status as political refugees, students, or workers), Massachusetts agencies could better develop and target programs, policies, and services for those most in need, which is equity operationalized.”
Rosann Tung, Ph.D. – Director of Policy, Research, and Evaluation; New York University,
Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools

“As a minister and as a member of our faiths Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, I know that our ethnic identities in addition to our racial identities matter. In my national work around racial justice and white supremacy our work is hampered by data that is not specific and does not allow us to mobilize to support our South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander communities.”
Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen, Unitarian Universalist Association


Addressing Disparities in Asian Populations through Translational Research
Asian American Commission
Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts
Asian American Policy Review – Harvard Kennedy School
Asian American Resource Workshop
Asian Community Development Corporation
Asian Pacific American Law Students Association – Harvard Law School
Asian Pacific Islander Civic Action Network
Asian Women for Health
Association of Harvard Asian and Asian American Faculty and Staff
Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center
Boston Teachers Union
Brazilian Women’s Group
Brookline Asian American Family Network
Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Greater Lowell
Chelsea Collaborative
Chinese Progressive Association
Clean Water Action
Coalition for Social Justice
Community Labor United
Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative
Essex County Community Organization
Greater Boston Legal Services, Asian Outreach Unit
Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition
GreenRoots Chelsea
Harry H. Dow Memorial Legal Assistance Fund
Immigrant Service Providers Group/Health
Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative
Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center
Japanese American Citizens League, New England chapter
Korean-American Citizens League of New England
Massachusetts Asian American Educators Association
Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus
Massachusetts Coalition For Occupational Safety And Health
Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition
Massachusetts Voter Table
Metrowest Worker Center
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Boston Chapter
New England United for Justice
Pan-Asian Coalition for Education – Harvard Graduate School of Education
Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance
Quincy Asian Resources, Inc.
Saheli – Support and Friendship For South Asian Women and Families
South Asian Students’ Association – Amherst College
South Cove Community Health Center
Tufts Asian Student Coalition – Tufts University
UMass Boston Institute for Asian American Studies
UMass Lowell Center for Asian American Studies
Unitarian Universalist Association
Vietnamese-American Community of Massachusetts (Cộng Đồng Việt Nam tại Massachusetts)
Vietnamese American Initiative for Development


Anh Vu Sawyer — Director, Southeast Asian Coalition of Massachusetts
C.N. Le, Ph.D. — Sociology Faculty and Director of Asian & Asian American Studies, UMass Amherst
Delia Cheung Hom, Ed.D. — Director, Asian American Center, Northeastern University
Ed Flynn — Boston City Councilor, District Two
Janelle Wong — AAPI Data Senior Researcher and Professor of Asian American Studies
Jennifer Lee — Professor of Sociology, Columbia University
Karthick Ramakrishnan — AAPI Data Director and Professor of Public Policy
Kimberly A. Truong, Ph.D. — Director of Inclusion Programs, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public
Michelle Wu — Boston City Councilor At-Large
Rosann Tung, Ph.D. — Director of Policy, Research, and Evaluation; New York University, Metropolitan
Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools
Steven R. Ultrino, Ed.D, State Representative for the 33rd Middlesex District