The academic success of many Asian Americans has been the focus of much speculation.
Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has dominated the discussion, but a new book The Asian American Achievement Paradox takes that debate into a whole different direction.
Inside Higher Education talked to Jennifer Lee, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Irvine, and Min Zhou, a professor of sociology at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the University of California at Los Angeles about their book. Both disagree that Asian American culture plays a role in academic success.
“The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 gave preferences to highly-educated, highly-skilled applicants from Asia, which, in turn, ushered in a new stream of Asian immigrants of diverse skills and socioeconomic backgrounds,” the two answered via email. “Some Asian immigrant groups are hyper-selected, meaning they are doubly positively selected; they are not only more highly educated than their compatriots from their countries of origin who did not immigrate, but also more highly educated than the U.S. average.”
This hyper-selectivity not only gives new arrivals an advantage, but also gives an advantage to their children “advantaged starting points” over other minorities. The two are quick to point out, however, that this hyper-selectivity doesn’t apply to all Asian Americans. Cambodians, Laotians, and Hmong trail behind in academic achievement. Many of their families arrived to America as refugees to escape communism .
Using the starting point analogy, they say the academic success of Mexicans actually outpaces that of Asian Americans. They also say Mexicans feel better about their academic achievements than to Asian Americans.
You can read about that, and also how all this plays into the arguments for and against affirmative action in Inside Higher Education.