Islander data will finally be available
By Jacqueline Cooke
An intern with the Pacific American Foundation
Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders have consistently been marginalized in mainstream public and private research.
This is not the fault of researchers, per se, but of a system that perpetuated the marginalization. This system recognized the uniqueness of these populations and changed federal racial classification policy that started on a grand scale with the 2000 Census and provided for the establishment of the Pacific American Research Center last month.
Finally, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders have been pulled out of the former "Asian Pacific Islander" category. In Hawaii alone, 396,206 individuals identified themselves as Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI), or part-NHOPI. The significance of a group this size in Hawaii is self-evident, as should be the importance of a research center devoted exclusively to Pacific Americans.
As a public policy graduate student at Harvard University, I have found one thing irrefutable: Numbers speak volumes. Don't get me wrong numbers can lie and be manipulated. Too often policymakers can sell an idea with "statistics" (the sort found on a partisan Web site) that are contrived and give statistics a bad name or analysis that is nonpartisan but that is based on data stretched beyond its potential.
The only way to eradicate these practices is to make sure data and analyses are available that can withstand critiques of its research processes.
Working in Hawai'i this summer on Native Hawaiian education issues, I have been frustrated by the paucity of data on Native Hawaiians. How sound is the data that has been referenced in making past decisions? How do we know our money has been and is being well spent?
Every American has a vested interest in the availability of sound data and the performance of nonpartisan analysis. The Pacific American Research Center will ensure that both of these are available to policymakers, other researchers and the community.
The days of obscure data on the Pacific American community are numbered. Finally. Let's hope our politicians and policymakers take heed of what will soon be available to them.