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Report: Asians and Pacific Islanders in Multnomah County face inequities compared to whites
Author: John Kirkland
Posted: February 28, 2012

Asians and Pacific Islanders (API) in Multnomah County face persistent inequities in social and economic conditions compared to whites, and in some cases in comparison to API communities nationally, according to a new research report from the Coalition of Communities of Color and Portland State University (PSU).

The coalition is scheduled to present the report, titled "The Asian and Pacific Islander Community in Multnomah County: an Unsettling Profile," to the Portland City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 29.

The 220-page report is the result of a three-year research partnership between PSU’s School of Social Work and the Coalition of Communities of Color, whose membership includes a diverse alliance of culturally specific organizations in Multnomah County. It is the fourth in a seven-part series. The first, published in May 2010, was a broad portrait of racial disparity in Multnomah County. Subsequent reports were on Native Americans and Latinos.

One of the findings shows significant disparities in academic achievement between API children and whites in areas math, reading, and on-time graduation.  The disparities “ultimately reduce opportunity and drive inequities, including poverty, within the API community,” said Ann Curry Stevens, the report’s author and an assistant professor in PSU’s School of Social Work.

“This report unveils the underbelly of a range of institutions that fail Asian and Pacific Islander communities.  This is not a matter for the history books but rather current practices that have masked urgent needs, denied equitable treatment, and led to profound challenges for much of the API community,” Stevens said.

The report states that from 2000 to 2010, Asian communities grew by 40 percent and Pacific Islander communities by 68 percent in Oregon. Those populations represent more than 30 ethnic and 100 language groups.  Coalition of Color concentrated on 27 distinct ethnic groups Multnomah County – from Burmese and Samoan to Cambodian, Hmong, and Vietnamese -- and identified 14 communities that are in the greatest distress.

This diversity is one factor behind the social inequities the report describes.  It states that current population data collection practices lump all Asians and Pacific Islanders in one or two large categories, which masks the experiences and issues affecting specific ethnic groups within those categories. The report recommends better data collection that would give a more accurate picture of the needs of API communities.

Copies of the report will be available at the Wednesday event.  It also is available online at www.coalitioncommunitiescolor.org

About Portland State University (PSU)

Located in Portland, Oregon, PSU has about 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students. PSU’s motto is “Let Knowledge Serve the City,” and we provide every student with opportunities to work with businesses, schools and organizations on real-world projects. Our downtown campus exhibits PSU’s commitment to sustainability, and sustainability is incorporated into much of the curriculum. www.pdx.edu/sustainability