Bias against Micronesians in Hawaii explored in UH social work research

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Theresa Kreif, (808) 956-6120
Assistant to the Dean, Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work
Posted: Apr 10, 2019

Micronesian people in Hawaiʻi frequently face bias and discrimination from people they work with, according to a new study from researchers at the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

In the study of more than 500 people from the Micronesian region currently living in Hawaiʻi, 24 percent reported that co-workers or a boss had gossiped about them or made fun them because of their ethnicity. In addition, 9 percent had been mistreated, such as by being denied a promotion, and 9 percent said they had been denied a job in Hawaiʻi because of their ethincity.

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

For the study, Stotzer and her colleagues partnered with We Are Oceania, the leading social service agency serving Micronesian people in Hawaiʻi. The researchers sat down for hour-long interviews with participants, who were recruited through a chain referral strategy that taps 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 helps us to see just how common these experiences of bias actually are," Stotzer said.

The study also found that 7 percent had been treated poorly or harassed in healthcare settings, 5 percent had been treated poorly or harassed in a mental healthcare setting and 5 percent been denied service at a restaurant or store in Hawai‘i.

"These results should encourage the people of Hawai‘i to reject all forms of bias, and work to better support our diverse communities," Stotzer said. 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 Manoa contributors include Theresa Kreif and Adriano Sabagala of the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, Lola Bautista of the Center for Pacific Island Studies and YanYan Wu of the Office of Public Health Studies. Other contributors include Jocelyn Howard of We Are Oceania, Joe Genz of UH Hilo and Janet Davidson of Chaminade University. Community interviewers included Yoana Amond, Attok Nashon, Charity Joel, Aritae Epeluk and Philios Uruman.

Additional details about the findings are available in a Research Brief.