MONITOR

Why Asian-Americans Are the Least Likely to Fill Out the 2020 Census

The Trump administration is making AANHPIs fearful of counting themselves in

Anjali Enjeti
ZORA
Published in
5 min readAug 28, 2019

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Photo: © Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images

TThe 2020 census is around the corner, and a report issued earlier this year reaches a troubling conclusion: Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) are the racial groups least likely to complete it. Only 55% of AANHPIs intend to complete the census, compared to 64% of blacks, 65% of Hispanics, and 69% of whites.

Population data generated from the census, which occurs every 10 years as mandated by the Constitution, apportions the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, draws state legislative district boundaries and school districts, and ascertains the need for funding crucial services like health care, education, and transportation. The federal government distributes $800 billion to states based on the census count.

Responding to the census, like voting, is an opportunity to have a voice in the government. Members of a community who aren’t counted risk being denied the resources they need.

“Census data is tied to power,” says Terry Minnis, senior director of the census and voting programs for the nonprofit organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice. “If the count is not accurate, communities end up losing out. Resources will not be divvied up in a proportional manner.”

The fact that AANHPIs are the most reluctant racial groups to fill out the census may come as a surprise, but it shouldn’t. The model minority myth, which paints the community as a dutiful, compliant, educated, and high-achieving monolith, obscures the attitudes and behaviors of a very diverse population. The AANHPI community includes immigrants and descendants with roots in some 40 countries, and many of these countries include dozens of distinct ethnic groups.

This means the model minority myth, which treats all AANHPIs as if they are equals, ends up harming less-privileged members of the Asian American community. “It leads many policymakers to assume that the government has little responsibility to address the needs of low-income Asian Americans, particularly among those groups who have arrived in the U.S. as the result…

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Anjali Enjeti
ZORA
Writer for

Journalist, critic & columnist at ZORA. Essay collection SOUTHBOUND (UGA Press) & debut novel THE PARTED EARTH (Hub City Press), spring ’21. anjalienjeti.com.