Do It Right, Be Inclusive : Assembly wisely calls for adding ‘Asian Pacific’ demographic category


In 1993 the California Department of Finance issued a population projections report that for the first time used demographic demarcations of race and ethnicity. The categories were white, black, Hispanic and other. Noticeably missing was a breakout of Asian and Pacific Islanders, who account for about 10% of state population and make up the fastest growing minority group in the United States.

The oversight is so apparent that a legislative remedy is warranted. The state lumped Asian and Pacific Islanders into the “other” category, even though it used U.S. census data on more than a dozen categories of Asian and Pacific Island ancestry. The Finance Department acknowledges that the group overall accounts for 85% of the “other” category. But the agency said it lacked the necessary comparable U.S. census data over a 20-year period to project population growth for Asian and Pacific Islanders.

Some demographers disagree, noting that California is home to the largest number of Asian and Pacific Islanders. With such a population base, they believe that credible population projections for the group are doable with a change in methodology. The census began counting this influx in 1870, when settlers from across the Pacific were primarily from China. By the turn of the century, they were joined by the Japanese, Filipinos and Koreans. The numbers were limited until 1965, when immigration reform ended the national-origin quota system.


To more accurately count the Asian and Pacific Islander population in the state, the Assembly has wisely passed a bill with bipartisan support to require the Department of Finance to break out those groups as a distinct category whenever it issues reports containing breakdowns or analyses based on race or ethnicity. The Senate Appropriations Committee takes up AB 3335 on Aug. 8 when the Legislature reconvenes. The bill is needed so that Asian and Pacific Islanders are not excluded in future reports by the Department of Finance.

Providing information on a group that will have increasing impact and voice in public policy is itself good policy.