When the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 13% of Minnesota’s Asian population was living below the federal poverty level in 2018, is it referring to Asians of Chinese heritage? Korean? Vietnamese?
Well, all of them.
But that 13% may not be particularly helpful to community members or policymakers until the data are disaggregated by cultural background.
By providing the public with detailed information about Minnesota’s largest cultural communities—information related to demographics, economics, and housing, among others—policymakers and the cultural communities themselves can identify specific interventions and investments to help these communities not just close opportunity gaps but thrive.
This type of information—detailed data by cultural group—is now available on the Minnesota Compass website. Thanks to U.S. Census Bureau surveys like the American Community Survey (ACS) that includes respondents’ cultural heritage, Minnesota Compass now has data snapshots of the 26 largest cultural community groups in Minnesota. (See Cultural Community Profiles for the full list of profiles and their population.)
Many Minnesota Compass users have sought more information about a particular cultural community, whether a community they themselves identify with or another community they are interested in. And it’s no wonder: Minnesota’s population has reached a historic high—5.6 million residents as of 2018. Minnesota’s indigineous population were the state’s first residents, followed by an influx of residents from other states and immigrants from mostly European countries. In more recent decades, Minnesota has become home to people from across the globe.
For cultural organizations who advocate on behalf of a specific community, having more information about that community can be helpful in determining how best to target resources and outreach. For example, what could an organization working to improve the lives of the 32,000 Minnesotans who identify as Vietnamese do after learning that 42% of Vietnamese Minnesotans speak English less than well? Perhaps it could organize English language classes, or ensure that important local government notices, such as information about property taxes, is appropriately translated. After all, nearly 80% of Vietnamese Minnesotans are homeowners.
The 26 profiles that Minnesota Compass developed are based on self-reported answers to questions on the American Community Survey related to race, ancestry, birthplace, and parental characteristics. The profiles give users a more detailed view of population subgroups than is readily available from the U.S. Census Bureau, which releases data in bucketed aggregates based on broad race and ethnicity categories. While users of this kind of aggregated data can learn high-level facts about a population based solely on race—13% of Asian Minnesotans earn less than the federal poverty line, or 52% of black Minnesotans pay more than 30% of their income in housing costs—perhaps a more useful data set would be one based on a cultural group: 91% of Somali Minnesotan households rent, or 49.8% of Colombian Minnesotans 25 years of age or older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. These measures offer insights into specific cultural communities that aren’t available from the generalized race data that the Census Bureau makes available. (Read more about our methodology.)
While we are excited about these profiles and want people to use the information for good, users should exercise caution when drawing conclusions.
In the coming months, Minnesota Compass will publish articles about how the data can be used to improve the lives of different cultural community groups. Because these profiles are new, we hope to highlight examples of how users are actually using the data. If you are one of these people, please share your story with us. We want to know about it. Email me directly at Jacob.Wascalus@wilder.org.
Jacob Wascalus is a research scientist on the Minnesota Compass team. He generates and curates content for the Minnesota Compass website and manages a portfolio of related research projects. He brings experience in research, geospatial analysis, writing, and outreach from previous positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, among others.