New UH collaborative study: Micronesian people in Hawaiʻi frequently face bias and discrimination in the workplace

The interview-based study—a collaborative effort between UH Mānoa, UH Hilo, Chaminade University, and a community group—importantly documents some of the challenges faced by Micronesians moving to and living in Hawai‘i.

Photo of shredding coconut with the words: RESEARCH BRIEF: Bias Against Micronesians in Hawaii. February 2019, Rebecca Stotzer, PhD. University of Hawaii at Manoa, Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work.

Associate Professor of Anthropology Joseph Genz, coordinator of the Pacific Island Studies Certificate program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, participated in a collaborative study with researchers at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa showing Micronesian people in Hawai‘i frequently face bias and discrimination in the workplace. The new study was led by researchers at the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work at UH Mānoa.

In the study of more than 500 people from the Micronesian region currently living in Hawai‘i, 24 percent reported that a co-worker or boss had gossiped about them or made fun them because of their ethnicity. In addition, nine percent had been mistreated, such as by being denied a promotion, and nine percent said they had been denied a job in Hawai‘i because they were Micronesian.

“These results give us a starting place for encouraging more education, so that we can treat all people in a way that reflects our aloha spirit,” says lead researcher Rebecca Stotzer.

Genz’s role in the study was to serve as a point of contact between the UH Mānoa collaborators and the Hilo-based community interviewer, UH Hilo alumnus Attok Nashon. Nashon, who doubled majored in business and accounting, is from the Marshall Islands. When an undergraduate, he was a community research assistant for an anthropology project focused on Micronesian experiences of ethnic tensions in Hawai‘i. He graduated in the fall of 2017.

Genz says the new interview-based study importantly documents some of the challenges faced by Micronesians moving to and living in Hawai‘i.

“In their own words, Marshallese, Chuukese, Pohnpeians, and others describe their experiences with discrimination and crime bias,” he explains. “The study’s quantitative analysis—based on over 500 participants—provides statistics that complement studies more focused on individual stories.”

More about the study

For the study, Stotzer and her colleagues partnered with We Are Oceania, the leading social service agency serving Micronesian people in Hawai‘i. The researchers sat down for hour-long interviews with participants, who were recruited through a chain referral strategy that tapped into people’s social networks.

“In the past, some people from the Micronesian region have been willing to share their stories individually, but this study really helped us see just how common these experiences of bias actually are,” Stotzer says.

The study also found that seven percent of Micronesian respondents had been treated poorly or harassed in healthcare settings, five percent had been treated poorly or harassed in a mental health setting and five percent had been denied service at a local restaurant or store.

“These results should encourage the people of Hawai‘i to reject all forms of bias, and to work to better support our diverse communities,” Stotzer says. In addition, the findings highlight the need to educate community service providers, such as medical professionals, social service providers and law enforcement officials, on the need for fair treatment.

Other UH Mānoa research contributors were Theresa Kreif and Adriano Sabagala in the School of Social Work, Lola Bautista at the Center for Pacific Island Studies and Yan Yan Wu in the Office of Public Health Studies. In addition to Genz, others researchers involved in the study were Jocelyn Howard of We Are Oceania and Janet Davidson of Chaminade University. In addition to Nashon, community interviewers included Yoana Amond, Charity Joel, Aritae Epeluk and Philios Uruman.

For additional details about the findings, see the research brief (PDF).


Adapted from UH System News.

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