Austin City Council voted Thursday to approve funding for an Asian-American quality of life study to be conducted by the University of Texas.
City Council approved to fund the University $139,758 for a one-year period. The study will focus on five major Asian-American subgroups in the Austin area: Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Indian and Vietnamese.
City Council first approved the resolution to conduct the study in October 2013. The study was inspired by the fast-growing population of Asian-Americans in Austin, with an increase from 3.3 percent of the population in 1990 to almost 5 percent in 2000 and around 6.5 percent today.
Social work associate professor Yuri Jang is the principal investigator of the study. She said Asian-Americans have not historically been the focus of initiatives to help identify their needs.
“Asian-Americans [are] a growing population that is underserved and understudied,” Jang said. “This is a unique opportunity to explore unexplored populations because the Asian-American voice is usually unheard. From a study perspective, we are trying to … identify the problems.”
For the study, researchers will survey Asian-American Austinites ages 18–70 and compile a database of resources that could benefit Asian-Americans in the city. They will also meet regularly with key leaders in the Asian-American community.
The study aims to provide data for public policy recommendations in the future and to improve overall quality of life for Asian-Americans in the city, said Richard Yuen, a forensic and clinical psychologist.
Yuen, who chairs the committee responsible for community research, said the Asian-American population is not just fast-growing — it is the fastest growing ethnic minority in Austin.
“Unfortunately, the city does not understand nor know much about this rapidly growing population of Austinites,” Yuen said. “Asian-Americans are not known to be activists in the community, not known to engage in voting or politics or community projects. Here, we want to have some strong public policy recommendations for programs in all areas that is supported by our research data, not only to benefit Asian-Americans but Austin as a whole.”
Different Asian-American student groups on campus have expressed interest in the study, including the Vietnamese Student Association and the Chinese Student Association, Yuen said.
Tram Ngyuen, mechanical engineering sophomore and president of the Vietnamese Student Association, said she feels that Asian-Americans are an often overlooked community.
“We are looked as neither a minority or a majority,” Ngyuen said. “We are often used as tools to prove another point, rather than an ethnic group that can stand on its own. This study is important to show how Asian-Americans have changed throughout this country’s history. We are not an invisible minority. We are a culture that has thrived and grown so much.”
Yuen said that this study gives an opportunity to delve directly into the community to identify issues in a diverse population.
“One of our most important issues … is being able to capture enough opinions from the various age groups, so that we can disaggregate the data and understand there is acculturation and generational differences,” Yuen said.
The Asian-American community is incredibly diverse, even just on campus, Ngyuen said.
“We have many Asian-Americans, not just Vietnamese, of many walks of life,” Ngyuen said. “We have people who have families that have been here for years, and others that have just recently arrived in the states.”
Although the city only granted funds for one year, both Yuen and Jang said they hope this program will continue in years to come.