City Council approves funding for Asian-American quality of life study

Jackie Wang

The University will conduct a study about Asian-American quality of life in Austin funded by the Austin City Council. 

On Thursday, the Council approved to pay the University $139,758 for a one-year period of research. The study will focus on five major Asian-American subgroups in the Austin area: Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Indian and Vietnamese.

The fast-growing population of Asian-Americans in Austin — an increase from 3.3 percent of the population in 1990 to almost 5 percent in 2000 and around 6.5 percent today — inspired the study.

Social work associate professor Yuri Jang, the study’s principal investigator, said Asian-Americans have not historically been the focus of research to help identify community 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.”

The study will primarily focus on Asian-American Austinites ages 18–70 and involve a compiled database of resources that could benefit Asian-Americans in the city. The goal is to have data for public policy recommendations in the future, as well as 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 the fastest-growing ethnic minority group 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 [and] 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 Students Association and the Chinese Student Association, Yuen said.

Tram Ngyuen, mechanical engineering sophomore and president of the Vietnamese Student Association, said she feels that Asians are often overlooked in the city.

“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 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.