Case Studies

U.S. Department of Commerce Survey on COVID-19 Impact on Asian American and Pacific Islander Small Business Owners


U.S. Department of Commerce, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI)


Discrimination coupled with institutional barriers reduces safety, protection under the law, and access to essential services for minority communities across the United States. During the COVID-19 pandemic, racism and violence spiked against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. WHIAAPI recognized that a lack of available data limited understanding of how the pandemic impacted AAPI communities and that organizational efforts to conduct scientific surveys were needed to determine how AAPI communities could be better served. 

How RLA Moved Science Forward

RLA collaborated with the National Asian American/Pacific Islander Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship and the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (PAC-AAPI) to design and execute a detailed survey of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander business owners in California and Texas, quantifying impacts of COVID-19 on revenue and staffing, overall business confidence, and experiences of racism in 2020. RLA held initial meetings with PAC-AAPI as well as progress calls and responded to ad hoc requests for curated data. RLA developed and presented a strategy for data gathering and analysis, formulated emerging themes, and crafted recommendations for a report. These efforts included an intensive review of materials compiled by PAC-AAPI and extant data about AAPI experiences during the pandemic. The project culminated in RLA designing, conducting, and analyzing a survey of 4.6 million AAPI business owners. 


For the first time, scientifically conducted survey data and carefully crafted recommendations were available to inform policymakers’ efforts to address the unprecedented effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on AAPI communities. The resulting summary report detailed trends observed in respondents’ reported experiences, linked data collected to larger potential implications, and included clear visualizations of noteworthy findings. In addition, RLA developed an impactful messaging strategy, synthesized for inclusion in the final PAC-AAPI 2020 report. This work set a precedent for future efforts to support minority communities in the United States and address discrimination through the collection and thoughtful analysis of representative data. 


  • Facilitate interviews with key stakeholders 
  • Summarize key decision points and action items 
  • Prepare and conduct large-scale surveys
  • Analyze data and prepare summary reports 
  • Synthesize research findings and produce reports complete with data visualizations
  • Develop messaging strategy based on data analysis
RLA-PAC Report 2020