Millions of people living in the U.S. territories—including American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—are often excluded from federal statistical data collection. This contributes to a significant racial justice issue. Without comprehensive data, policymakers and researchers cannot fully understand the socio-economic challenges faced by all U.S. residents, including people living in the territories, who are disproportionately people of color. This blog—originally published by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—highlights the disparities in data collection between the U.S. territories and the rest of the U.S., the need for collecting high-quality data in U.S. territories, and the negative implications of analyzing an incomplete portrait of the nation.
The U.S. cannot fully understand itself as a nation and the needs of its people without timely, complete, and accurate statistics on all of its citizens and residents. However, millions of U.S. citizens and residents living in the U.S. territories are not included in many key government data collection efforts and publications. These data disparities undermine the ability of policymakers and researchers to understand national and local challenges, including the unique risks posed by the climate emergency and pervasive social and economic inequalities. This brief—published jointly with Equally American—analyzes the implications of inadequate data collection in the U.S. territories and recommends steps federal policymakers can take to improve the timeliness and accuracy of data and understand the social, environmental, and economic challenges residents of U.S. territories face.