Robert T. Teranishi: UCLA’s IGE Recommends Steps to Improve Data on Racial and Ethnic Diversity

The Racial Heterogeneity Project seeks to inform the 2020 U.S. Census with recommendations for more nuanced assessment, data collection, and reporting.

A new report that was co-organized by the Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education at UCLA offers a conceptual lens and actionable steps for organizations, institutions, and states to improve data practices and more accurately capture and represent the nation’s racial and ethnic diversity. Professor of Education Robert T. Teranishi, who co-directs IGE, and IGE researchers Cynthia M. Alcantar, Edward R. Curammeng, Edwin Hernandez, Victoria Kim, Bach Mai Dolly Nguyen, Mike Hoa Nguyen, and Audrey D. Paredes, participated in The Racial Heterogeneity Project, which is made up of leading educational researchers and supported by the ACT Center for Equity in Learning.

“Education equity is critically important to the country’s well-being. The collection of more accurate data informs not only who is attending schools and universities across the nation, it also opens the door for better understanding student needs and strategically focusing attention on supporting those needs,” says Professor Teranishi.

The report is released at a critical time, as the U.S. Census Bureau is preparing its 2020 questionnaire and there are still questions regarding the ways in which race and ethnic categories will be accounted for.

For instance, the report states that in the past Latino ethnic groups depicted in the Census “do not accurately account for the vast diversity of the Latin American countries represented among the Latino population in the U.S….[t]he assumption that the Mexican American/Chicano experience is the definitive Latino experience is inaccurate.”

The report includes the following recommendations around needs assessment, data collection procedures, and data reporting practices:

  • A call to action to establish momentum for change. The civil rights community and other advocacy efforts should be aware of and advocate for a more nuanced perspective of racial and ethnic minority groups. This is important groundwork for establishing awareness about the unique needs and challenges of particular sub-populations, as well as building a foundation for better data that can reflect the opportunities, experiences, and outcomes of these groups.
  • Better data results in more reflection and better insight. Data should be collected in a manner that accurately reflects the heterogeneity of different racial populations. This has been an evolving project for the U.S. Census Bureau, which has revealed useful insight from which other government agencies can learn. New data categories that reflect the increasingly diverse national demography will be critical for education policy and practice. The exploration of the new racial category “Middle Eastern or North African” (MENA), for example, reflects the responsiveness of the U.S. Census to capture the changing national demography.
  • A call for proof points. Disaggregated data should be made more widely accessible and there is a need for effective models for reporting and utilizing these data. Results from studies using disaggregated data should be shared widely to show the utility of this data for informing practice, policy, and advocacy, especially for sub-groups that are particularly marginalized and vulnerable.

These recommendations are based on the urgency that students of color already represent the majority of public school students, and will constitute a new majority of the population sometime between now and 2050, by which time Whites will compose less than half of the total population. First- and second-generation immigrants will compose nearly 40 percent of the population, and the Asian American and Latino populations will increase by more than 100 percent each.

“By focusing on equity, we are examining and addressing barriers to opportunity related to family income, race and ethnicity, and accessibility, and other issues that intersect with these areas of focus,” says Jim Larimore, chief officer, ACT Center for Equity in Learning. “This report is a prime example of research we are supporting that illuminates challenges and opportunities, and that leads to actions that have the potential to improve learning, access and student success.”

“As the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse, it is important to have an accurate rendering of the demography of our students,” says Teranishi. “A deeper understanding of the demographic landscape of our students is key to identifying and responding to the unique needs of particular groups.”

The Institute and Center for Equity in Learning will hold a Twitter chat to discuss the report on June 28 at 3 p.m. EDT/Noon PDT. The discussion will use the hashtag #RacialEdDataChat as well as the handles @IGEUCLA and @ACTEquity

The Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education at UCLA is co-directed by Wasserman Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco and Professor Carola Suárez-Orozco.  Its multidisciplinary and comparative research engages policymakers, practitioners, and institutional leaders and informs efforts to expand opportunities, reduce barriers, and improve the well-being of diverse, vulnerable, and marginalized students.

For more information on the Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education at UCLA, click here.