Massachusetts Passes Data Equity Bill
“This bill is a first step in combatting harmful racial biases in data and making Asian Americans feel seen.”
BOSTON, MA — Yesterday, Governor Maura Healey signed into law a bill that will combat harmful racial biases in data. The new law mandates the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to collect, organize, and assemble public data on major ethnic groups, of which each major Asian group—including but not limited to Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, and Vietnamese—composes more than 466,000 Asian American residents living in the state. Breaking down data into subgroups for all races helps to understand the diverse experiences and needs of different ethnicities.
The Asian and Pacific Islanders Civic Action Network (APIs CAN!) is a coalition of community organizations in Massachusetts and a major advocate and proponent for the bill as they have been working on it since 2017.
“We celebrate this major win for all communities of color that have been historically marginalized and underserved,” said Angie Liou, executive director of Asian Community Development Corporation. “On one hand, this is about visibility. But this is also about making sure our communities get the resources they need. Data equity ensures the people of Massachusetts are seen with nuance and that the issues we face are given the attention they deserve.”
Asian Americans have wide disparities in income and education that often are not captured in data that is lumped together. Additionally, health outcomes sometimes also differ widely by ethnicity. For example, some Asian ethnicities have higher rates of certain cancers that could be prevented with earlier screening.
George Huynh, VietAID executive director, said, “For many immigrants from Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia, the refugee experience can have a significant influence on health and economic outcomes. Aggregate data that lumps all Asian Americans together often covers up this difference, making our communities appear to not need attention or intervention.”
Sothea Chiemruom, Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association (CMAA) Executive Director said, “The importance of disaggregating multiple data points allows for potential solutions in promoting equitable access to opportunities for all groups of students, especially underrepresented and marginalized groups.”
“Information on domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking is incomplete. We lack data on diverse and marginalized populations—such as the Asian, Pacific Islander, and immigrant communities—who often face multiple barriers to disclosing abuse and accessing help. Better data on these groups would help service providers reach these groups, better meet their needs, and ultimately reduce these acts of violence,” said Dawn Sauma Co-Executive Director, Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK).
“Accurately counting Asian Americans is a civil rights issue. Massachusetts has taken a major step forward for racial equity. Asian Americans are not a monolith. This new mandate to break down data by ethnicity will mean that we finally learn more about how our communities are truly being impacted with regard to our education, health, and other facets critical to thriving in this country,” said Bethany Li, legal director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Carolyn Chou, co-executive director of Asian American Resource Workshop, said, “The pernicious model minority myth, which presumes Asian Americans are ‘successful,’ has cloaked the very real issues that we face. This new law is a first step in combating harmful racial biases in data and making Asian Americans visible.”
For additional information, contact:
Asian American Resource Workshop
Stuart J. Sia