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Importance of Disaggregated Asian American Data

, by Jacqueline B. Vo (REB) and Jaimie Z. Shing (IIB)

Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the United States, making up 6 percent of the population. Asian Americans are vastly diverse in ethnicity (shared cultural characteristics, such as country of origin), language, immigration patterns, cultural beliefs, English proficiency, health outcomes, and socioeconomic status.1 Disaggregated ethnicity data by country of origin (e.g., Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Asian Indian, Filipino) demonstrate inequities in income (see figure below) and in cancer risk. 2, 3

Figure shows the wide variation of median household income among Asian origin groups in the United States (median annual household income, 2019, by origin group).

Figure: Wide spread of income and poverty rates by disaggregated Asian American ethnicity.

Credit: Pew Research. "Key facts about Asian origin groups in the U.S.", Apr 29, 2021.

For example, cervical cancer incidence appears lower when aggregated for all Asian Americans, compared to non-Hispanic White Americans; however, when disaggregated by ethnicity, we observe that rates are much higher in Vietnamese and Cambodian but lower in Chinese and Asian Indian women.3

Research Recommendations:

  • Rigorously collect data on Asian American ethnicity (country of origin), providing the opportunity to study outcomes stratified by disaggregated ethnicity (e.g., Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Asian Indian, Filipino).
  • Use a reference group other than non-Hispanic White, as appropriate (e.g., Asian American cancer survivors compared to Asian Americans in the general population).
  • Actively engage community partners to better understand the real-life experiences and cultural and historical context among different Asian American ethnic groups.
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Additional Resources


  1. Budiman A, Ruiz NG. Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S. Pew Research Center. Published April 9, 2021.
  2. Gomez SL, Noone AM, Lichtensztajn DY, et al. Cancer Incidence Trends Among Asian American Populations in the United States, 1990-2008. J Natl Cancer Inst 2013. 
  3. Torre LA, Sauer AMG, Chen MS, et al. Cancer statistics for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, 2016: Converging incidence in males and females: Cancer Statistics for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, 2016. CA Cancer J Clin.  2016

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