Is the umbrella term ‘Asian American’ even accurate anymore?

By Sakshi Venkatraman |

It’s a picture that obscures deeper truths about the 18.5 million people who share the umbrella term. Over the last few years, that image has begun to fall away. 

It coincides with the community asking itself central questions: What does “Asian American” even mean anymore? Do Indian Americans, who earn a $119,000 median household income, belong in the same statistical category as Burmese Americans, who earn $44,000? Does a first-generation Bangladeshi family have anything in common with a fifth-generation Japanese one?

For decades, advocates have been fighting to disassemble aggregate data to gain a clearer picture of these individual communities. And with states like New York and California beginning to pass legislation mandating it, a picture of what that could look like on a large scale is taking shape.

“If you’re trying to understand the Asian American population, you have to take into account its diversity,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder and co-director of AAPI Data who has spent years pushing for data equity. “When you collect data and all you have is a checkbox that says ‘Asian,’ it does not do justice to the needs of the community.”

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