Limited census metrics fail to convey San Diego's growing diversity
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Martin Luther king Jr. Day has become a celebration of all of America's diversity, but we may be missing out on the entire scope of our different heritages and experiences because we're just not documenting them a review of the 2020 census finds that San Diego is more diverse than ever before, but some San Diegos wonder where they belong. When faced with the standard census categories, several vibrant communities say their identities are hidden behind generic ethnic labels. Joining me is voice of San Diego reporter Maya, she Christian and
Speaker 2: (00:36)
Maya. Welcome. Thanks for having me
Speaker 1: (00:38)
Now on your podcast, San Diego, 1 0 1, you start off by talking about the overall problems with the 2020 census that may have tainted results. Can you remind us about that? Yeah. So there
Speaker 2: (00:49)
Were a few things that happened. Um, one was that the Trump administration tried to add the citizenship question, which didn't end up actually happening, but it still potentially spooked. A lot of people were already in hard to count communities because, um, they were in immigrant communities and were concerned that filling out the census may have an impact on their ability to stay in the country. Then there was also the COVID 19 pandemic, which made gathering information in person really difficult in past census counts. Uh, there were been people who go door to door, particularly in hard to count communities. And that was sort of impossible at the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic. And then finally in fall 2020, the Trump administration actually cut the census gathering short a little bit. And again, many of these hard to count communities are some of the communities who end up filling in out their census data last and there's potential that some of them were also left out in that process,
Speaker 1: (01:49)
Even. So the census is telling us that San Diego's diversity is increasing. What do the numbers say?
Speaker 2: (01:55)
Yeah. So the census numbers tell us that San Diego is getting increasingly diverse Latinos and Asians in particular have been growing really fast in the county. Um, since 2010, the Latino population has grown by almost 13% and the Asian population has grown by more than 22%. And all of this is happening while the white population has been shrinking.
Speaker 1: (02:17)
Now you mentioned that an increase in people identifying as other on the census is a key indicator. Tell us more about that.
Speaker 2: (02:25)
Yeah, well, we don't know the full extent of who's filling out other, but it is likely people who don't feel like they fit into one of the other racial or ethnic categories on the census. And compared to the last census, there were about three times as many people in San Diego county who chose other. So that definitely raises questions of, you know, who are those people? How do they identify and what their experiences are?
Speaker 1: (02:45)
Yeah. How do the standard categories that we find on the census form like white, black, or Asian, how do they pose problems for people of different ethnic backgrounds?
Speaker 2: (02:56)
So there are a lot of issues that several communities have raised about the census categories. For example, people who identify as Latino, there's the Hispanic non-Hispanic category, but when you get down to the racial groups, there's no Latino or Hispanic category there. And so, you know, some of them end up selecting white, or they may identify as, or they may end up selecting other, in addition, many people who are, you know, Arab Americans or, um, middle Eastern or north African descent tend to be identified as white on the census. And there is no separate category for them. And I think that's been something that they have been trying to change and advocate for, um, to have a separate census category for many, many years now.
Speaker 1: (03:40)
Okay. So if someone of Arab American or north African descent identified as white on a census form, how does that obscure the growth of these communities in San Diego?
Speaker 2: (03:52)
Well, I mean, first we can't really separate it from the growth of the white community or any changes in the population of the white at community. And I think that in addition to just being able to see numbers, it also makes many people in those communities not feel seen or acknowledged because they feel their experiences are very different than white people. But, you know, when it comes to the way data's collected, it's really hard or those experiences to come out in reports or be acknowledged by government. And, you know, the sense of shapes, how so many other institutions collect data. So we also don't really have great public health data or educational outcome data specific to those communities. And we can't see what their experiences are, whether they're struggling in certain regards and whether they need more resources and support. Tell us
Speaker 1: (04:37)
About a little bit more about the practical consequences for communities that feel their identities are hidden in these generic labels like funding, for instance, from state government and from the federal government. One
Speaker 2: (04:49)
Example that I reported on recently, uh, has to do with the way Asians and Asian Americans are classified on census. And in many other, um, ways data is collected around the country is so Asians are all grouped together, regardless of whether they're from India, the Philippines, China, or whether they were born here. And that can kind of hide again, some of the experiences of some groups. So for example, COVID data in San Diego county, hasn't been broken down in a way that would show you how the Philipp communities experiencing it versus how like the Indian community is experiencing it. And, uh, we recently did an investigation where we went through all of the death certificates in the county from the first year of COVID. And we actually found that Filipinos were the second highest impacted group of all groups in the county. And they had really high death rates.
Speaker 2: (05:44)
And this is likely in part due to their prevalence in healthcare fields and caregiving fields. But what advocates in the community told us was that, you know, they saw people in their communities getting sick and dying, and they knew it was happening more than in some other communities, but organizations that specifically serve the Filipino community that could give them information in a way that's culturally nuanced and relevant to the specific experiences they're having that make them more at risk for COVID. Um, those organizations weren't able to get as much funding to do outreach for vaccine knowledge or even, you know, awareness of how to isolate and keep yourself safe in the same way that some organizations that serve other groups were able to, because the Filipino impact of COVID 19 wasn't out there, you know, it wasn't being tracked by the government agencies that were providing this funding.
Speaker 1: (06:35)
You know, my, it seems that with the technology and software that's available, the census could have, I mean, a couple of hundred ethnic categories to choose from. Do we know why that hasn't happened?
Speaker 2: (06:47)
I mean, I don't think we know why for sure. Um, I'm sure lots of people have different theories or different reasons as to why that might happen. I know I've certainly talked to some advocates who of that. It is, you know, an intentional effort to kind of bury some of the experiences of certain communities. It might just also be an aversion to change that comes with big bureaucratic federal governments, but there's probably lots of different things that are playing into why there hasn't been more shifts in how the census tracks racial and ethnic categories,
Speaker 1: (07:16)
But there's an effort to make changes in the next census. Tell us about that.
Speaker 2: (07:20)
There were campaigns in 2010 and 2020 in particular for people who identified as Mina, which means middle Eastern and north African, so that they could have their own category. And, um, there were discussions about that actually, um, at the us census bureau, it didn't end up happening. And then there was also a Grasso campaign to kind of write in, um, after they selected other write in that they are in Thea category. Those efforts didn't really end up working when it came, when the data came out. But I'm sure that there are going to be similar efforts underway before 2030.
Speaker 1: (07:53)
Okay. Then I've been speaking with voice of San Diego reporter Maya, Christian, Maya. Thank you very much. Thank thanks.
A review of the 2020 census finds that San Diego is more diverse than ever before.
Yet despite the change in demographics across the region, San Diego may be missing out on the entire scope of its increasing diversity simply because certain groups aren't being properly counted.
In light of the recent census data, some San Diegans wonder where they belong when faced with the standard census categories.
Several vibrant communities say their identities are hidden behind generic ethnic labels that don't properly match their cultural backgrounds and experiences.