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New York passes historic bill that breaks down Asian American data by ethnic group

NY Governor Kathy Hochul
NY Governor Kathy Hochul
  • Historically, Asian Americans have been viewed and treated by many as a monolith.

  • A newly enacted New York bill creates separate categories for Asian ethnic groups in data collection, which would guide policymakers in addressing each community’s unique needs.

  • Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the bill as part of a package of legislation that tackle racism and discrimination.

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In hopes of better serving Asian communities, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) has signed a package of legislation that tackles racism and discrimination, with one of the bills aimed at disaggregating Asian American data by ethnic group.

Hochul signed S.6639-A/A.6896-A, which “requires the collection of certain demographic data by certain state agencies, boards, departments, and commissions,” on Dec. 22.  

“For far too long, communities of color in New York have been held back by systemic racism and inequitable treatment,” Hochul said in a statement. “I am proud to sign legislation that addresses this crisis head-on, addressing racism, expanding equity and improving access for all.”

The data disaggregation bill recognizes Asian Americans — as well as Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders — as an “extremely diverse” group that is “often misrepresented to be homogenous.” It says current legislations have also failed to reflect changing demographics and migration patterns within the state.

Separate categories for each major Asian group will be used when collecting demographic data. These categories include Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, Laotian, Cambodian, Bangladeshi, Hmong, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan Nepalese, Burmese and Thai, among others.

Under the law, Taiwanese and Tibetan data will be separated from Chinese data. Disaggregation will also apply to Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander groups.

Data collected under the new system will be included in every demographic report on ancestry or ethnic origins of New York residents from July 1, 2022. Sponsors of the bill say it will improve the understanding of AAPI experiences and needs which could result in a reduction of anti-Asian hate.

The bill had undergone multiple revisions since it was first introduced in 2011. U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), the only Asian American state legislator at the time, sponsored the original bill as an Assemblymember.

Reaction to the bill

Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (D-N.Y.), the bill’s primary sponsor, welcomed Hochul’s action last week, saying the law will help tackle specific issues faced by each community.

“I thank Governor Hochul for signing this legislation and helping ensure New York’s Asian-Americans are fully seen and represented in our state’s decision making,” Niou said. “We cannot begin to address the challenges in our AAPI communities until we recognize the diversity within the AAPI community itself.”

In October, the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) urged Hochul to sign the bill after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) vetoed its 2019 version. CPC President and Chief Executive Officer Wayne Ho expressed confidence in Hochul’s judgment, describing her as “a strong supporter of New York’s incredibly diverse AAPI communities.”

The Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF), which has advocated disaggregating AAPI data for more than 10 years, lauded the bill’s success.

“We are thankful for Governor Hochul’s commitment to the AA and NH/PI community and to better understanding our diverse community needs. Better data means more equitable resources, services, and policies for our communities, and especially for those who struggle the most,” the group said in a statement.

The law will take effect 120 days after its enactment.

Featured Image via Gov. Kathy Hochul

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