Why are Asians successful? Are Asians smarter?

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.

Further reading:

13 Responses to “Why are Asians successful? Are Asians smarter?”

  1. chinesecanuck Says:

    Many Asians also lack the connections that white people have, which may lead to the lack of better paying jobs. Double whammy at times, I guess.

    -Chinese Canuck (aka YASPY Chick)

  2. macon d Says:

    Exactly, excellent post. The white use of the model minority myth continues apace. Thanks for the wealth of useful information here,

    macon d

  3. Anonymous Says:

    hell ya

  4. Anonymous Says:

    rice and fish makes u smarter!!

  5. What Your Web Branding Suggests About Your Politics « Restructure! Says:

    […] one of the recurring themes at ModelMinority.com is dispelling the model minority myth. It’s as if the site’s author registered the domain name, started reading up on the […]

  6. anon Says:

    Contrary to what many people think, genetics is the primary cause of many of the gaps we see between races. I know many people want the “feel good” answer that any differences are caused by society and environmental differences and will accuse anyone that doesn’t think as they do as “racist” but I will have to say this is a complete disservice to science. Blacks are not better in sports simply because they work harder at it nor do Asians thrive in academics simply because they study harder. Genetics play a vital role. There are many scientific studies done on the issue of race and intelligence.

    A general consenus among scientists as published in the Wall Street Journal in 1994 titled “Mainstream Science on Intelligence” shows a consenus among scientists that average IQ are as followed in America. Blacks 85. Whites 100. East Asians 106. Further studies done and published in science journals show IQ to be overwhelmingly genetic. Minnesota Twins Study by Dr. Thomas Bouchard, the most famous twin study done, shows that identical twins separated at birth are significantly more similiar in IQ than fraternal twins raised together with a genetic correlation of .80.

    Cranial size studies show published in the science journal Intelligence 1997, 25, pg 15 shows the average cranial size as followed. Blacks 1,267 cm3. Whites 1347 cm3. East Asians 1364 cm3. The link between cranial size and intelligence are strongly established in several scientific studies published in journals. “Brain Size and Cognitive Ability” in the 1996 issue of the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review surveyed all the published research on this topic. It included studies that used the state-of-the-art technique known as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) which gives a very good image of the human brain. There were eight of these studies with a total sample size of 381 adults. The overall correlation between IQ and brain size measured by MRI is 0.44.

    A survey done among scientists in the intelligence field by Snyderman show that the majority of scientists believe that the White-Black IQ gap has a genetic basis by a 3-1 margin compared to scientists who believe the White-Black IQ gap is purely environmental.

    So why are Asians smarter? More specifically Northeast Asians? The scientific theories among scientists today hold the notion that the humans that left Africa 110,000 years ago into colder climates of Europe and Northern Asia required more thought and planning to obtain food than that of Africa. And that Northern Asia had more drastic temperatures than that of Europe. It’s evolution at work.

    The absolute hypocrisy in all this is those who believe in evolution but yet believe human races that lived in drastically different environments for 110,000 years will have innate genetic abilities across the board that match exactly. Let’s not sacrifice science for political correctness.

    In the following link, this person does a good job listing the scientific evidence on this issue:

    Andreasen N. C., Flaum M., Swayze V. II, O’Leary D. S., Alliger R., Cohen G., Ehrhardt J. & Youh W. T. C. (1993). Intelligence and brain structure in normal individuals. American Journal of Psychiatry, 150, 130-134.

    Jensen A. R. & Johnson F. W. (1994). Race and sex differences in head size and IQ. Intelligence, 18, 309-333.

    Sarich V. M. (1995). “In defense of The Bell Curve: The reality of race and the importance of human differences”. Skeptic, 3, 84-93.

    Dudley, Richard M. “Sources of human psychological differences: The Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart”: Comment. Science. Vol 252(5003) Apr 1991, 191. American Assn for the Advancement of Science, US

    Journal Personality and Individual Differences, 2002, Vol. 32, pp.273-316. Professor Richard Lynn

  7. Restructure! Says:


    Thanks for referencing studies from 18 years ago. Here is an article from 2005 : http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/amp60146.pdf

    In this article, the authors argue that the overwhelming portion of the literature on intelligence, race, and genetics is based on folk taxonomies rather than scientific analysis. They suggest that because theorists of intelligence disagree as to what it is, any consideration of its relationships to other constructs must be tentative at best. They further argue that race is a social construction with no scientific definition. Thus, studies of the relationship between race and other constructs may serve social ends but cannot serve scientific ends. No gene has yet been conclusively linked to intelligence, so attempts to provide a compelling genetic link of race to intelligence are not feasible at this time. The authors also show that heritability, a behavior-genetic concept, is inadequate in regard to providing such a link.

  8. Maysie Says:

    Good post, restructure.

    And anon, yikes.
    “A survey done among scientists in the intelligence field by Snyderman show that the majority of scientists believe that the White-Black IQ gap has a genetic basis by a 3-1 margin compared to scientists who believe the White-Black IQ gap is purely environmental.”

    Um, since when does what people “believe” about anything match reality? The majority of USians think Elvis is still alive, does that mean he is?

    Back to the topic, what about the immigrants of the past turn of the century, largely non-Anglo white folks (who weren’t considered white at the time, btw). Italian, Irish Catholic and Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants were considered better suited to physical labour, less intelligent, and physically stronger (boxing and other professional sports were seen as a way out of poverty.) than Anglos. Their religious beliefs were also seen as “strange”. Somehow all these beliefs made it easier to treat them badly, pay them less than Anglos, etc. Any of this sound familiar? Same song, different targeted groups.

    Biological definitions of differences across racial groups is old and tired. It’s sooo 100 years ago.

    And hey, ever wonder why white folks always end up right in the middle, as if, they are “normal” and everyone else is freakishly higher or lower? Does that set off any alarm bells for how the tests are structured, among other things?

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