Q: Why are Asians successful in America? Do Asians have a higher intelligence than non-Asians? Are Asians more hard-working?
A: Asian immigrants in the United States and their descendants are more successful on average because they are highly self-selected. Overseas immigrants are a biased sample and not representative of their original country’s general population. They tend to be economic immigrants coming from the middle and upper classes, with a higher degree of education and wealth. However, the subset of overseas immigrants (including Asians) that are refugees suffer extreme poverty, on average, because they are more representative of the general population of their originating countries.
All non-whites in the United States are subject to racial discrimination in employment, and are denied white privilege. Even the Asians that arrive with or inherit economic and educational privileges suffer from racism in employment, as they need to have more education than a white person to receive the same pay. They also bump into the glass ceiling.
The United States is not a meritocracy. Racism, sexism, and inherited wealth are determinants of who is in power.
Q: Where is the data that supports this explanation?
A: Sociologist Stephen Klineberg conducted a 1996 survey of Asians in Houston and found that there was little or no social mobility among Asians.
[…] Klineberg revealed that nearly 40 percent of Asian respondents said their fathers had been doctors, lawyers, corporate managers or other professionals, compared to about 30 percent of Anglos, 20 percent of Blacks, and 15 percent of Hispanics.
The occupational profiles of the Asian respondents and their fathers suggest little or no upward social mobility. For example, 44 percent of the Indians and Pakistanis in Houston are in professional or managerial positions, but so were 47 percent of their fathers. Among the Vietnamese, 28 percent are in low-skilled production or laboring jobs as were 30 percent of their fathers.
From the same study, Klineberg found that although Asians, on average, are more likely to have college degrees compared to Anglos, their income and employment positions are lower than Anglos.
While nearly 60 percent of Asian adults in Harris County have college degrees, compared to about 40 percent of Anglo adults, Asians report considerably lower household incomes and are more apt to work in lower status positions than Anglos.
Sociologist C.N. Le reviews research on the “returns in education”, which shows that non-whites, including Asians, earn less than whites with equal qualifications.
Recent research from scholars such as Timothy Fong, Roderick Harrison, and Paul Ong, to name just a few, continues to confirm these findings that controlling for other variables, Asian Americans still earn less money than Whites with virtually equal qualifications. Once again, for each statistic that suggests everything is picture-perfect for Asian Americans, there is another that proves otherwise.
Guofang Li, an academic researcher and assistant professor in the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education, debunks the myth that Asians are by nature more academically successful than other minorities:
Although many Asian students do quite well in school and on standardized tests, Li maintains their success often reflects the additional expensive private schooling provided by upper- and middle-class parents on evenings and weekends.
The persistence of these ideas, says Li, prevents us from unraveling the social realities of those who face problems in the educational system. Furthermore, she says, they authorize a flat denial of racism and structures of social dominance, and silence those who are not economically successful.
More data and explanations debunking this “model minority” myth can be found in the section below.
- How Whites Use Asians to Further Anti-Black Racism by Tim Wise
- Myth: Asian-Americans are a model minority by Steve Kangas
- A Brief History of the ”Model Minority” Stereotype by Andrew Chin
- Black Immigrants: the new model minority? by Wendi Muse
- Survey Examines Asian Mobility (Rice University)
- The Model Minority Image by C. N. Le
- Researcher Debunks “Myth” that Asians Are, by Nature, More Academically Successful than Other Minorities (University at Buffalo)