Classifying Asian Americans by Race versus Ethnicity: Differences in Cancer Death Rates

Diane S. Lauderdale, University of Chicago
Dezheng Huo, University of Chicago

Most US health statistics group Asian Americans into one race category, although many researchers question the value of the aggregation. However, small sample sizes in primary data collections and classification problems in administrative and vital statistics files generally preclude subgroup detail. In this large data linkage project, we determine site-specific cancer death rates for six Asian American subgroups and test for heterogeneity to better understand whether rates by race are actually misleading. We previously determined death rates for persons aged 65+ in the six largest Asian American subgroups using Social Security files, avoiding vital statistics classification deficiencies; unexpectedly, ethnic death rates were quite similar. In this project we link the Social Security death records to death certificates through the California Death Masterfile and the NDI. We find significant heterogeneity among Asian subgroups for about half of cancer sites. Asian Indians are most often the subgroup with a divergent rate.

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Presented in Session 6: Race/Ethnic Differences in Adult Health and Mortality