The decennial Census survey marks the emergence of federal classifications of race and ethnicity by which the U.S. government has historically conflated Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI, hereafter) as “Asian or Pacific Islander.” This conflation amplifies health injustices and inequities of NHPIs through multiple mechanisms because it masks the complex and heterogeneous experiences of NHPIs, whose positions and relations with the settler state are qualitatively and substantially distinct from Asian Americans. This critical review examines federal documents and research to examine how the panethnic categorizations are often sustained through scientific inquiry and methodologies. We found that self-determination and self-identification for NHPIs are impeded by settler-colonial relations between U.S. colonization of parts of Oceania (e.g., Hawai'i, Sāmoa, Fiji, and Guam) and the forcefully imposed categorization that continues to be in use to legitimize the domination of Indigenous Peoples through race misclassification. Specifically, Census data collection fails to capture accurate and reliable data due to serious methodological limitations. These implications for psychological research compel us to make several recommendations for psychologists: (1) engage with NHPI community partners in all research processes; (2) critically examine Census research design and consider oversampling NHPI households to ensure just data representation; (3) meaningfully engage when, whether and how to aggregate Asian Americans with NHPIs; and (4) use Indigeneity as a critical framework.
- Indigenous erasure
- Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders
- data sovereignty
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Applied Psychology
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health