The “Model Minority” Facing Discrimination

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The Economist has a fascinating and potentially infuriating piece on Asian-Americans. In short, Asian-Americans find themselves being discriminated against (particularly in academia) because of their success. The history of Asian immigrants has not been a happy one: “The largest mass lynching in American history, in 1871, in which 17 Chinese were murdered; the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited Chinese immigration; the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans in the second world war, when relatively few German- or Italian-Americans were interned: all were symptoms of a racism that was reserved not just for African-Americans.” Despite these earlier disadvantages, Asian-Americans on average

are unusually well educated, prosperous, married, satisfied with their lot and willing to believe in the American dream: 69% of Asians, compared with 58% of the general public, think that “most people who want to get ahead can make it if they are willing to work hard.”” It is their educational outperformance that is most remarkable: 49% of Asian-Americans have a bachelor’s degree, compared with 28% of the general population. Whereas Asian-Americans make up 5.6% of the population of the United States, according to the complaint to the Department of Education they make up more than 30% of the recent American maths and physics Olympiad teams and Presidential Scholars, and 25-30% of National Merit Scholarships.

Recent research suggests that “Asian outperformance is thanks in large part to hard work” rather than innate differences or socioeconomic status:

[Amy] Hsin and [Yu] Xie’s study showed a sizeable gap in effort between Asian and white children, which grew during their school careers. When the researchers asked the children about their attitudes to work, two differences emerged between Asian and white children. The Asians were likelier to believe that mathematical ability is learned, not innate; and Asian parents expected more of their children than white ones did. The notion that A- is an “Asian F” is widespread. Another study, by Zurishaddai Garcia of the University of Utah, shows that Asian-American parents are a lot likelier to spend at least 20 minutes a day helping their children with their homework than any other ethnic group.

Despite their hard work and incredible performance, research finds that

Asian-Americans need 140 SAT points out of 1,600 more than whites to get a place at a private university, and that blacks need 310 fewer points1Top universities tend to admit blacks and Hispanics with lower scores because of their history of disadvantage; and once the legacies, the sports stars, the politically well-connected and the rich people likely to donate new buildings (few of whom tend to be Asian) have been allotted their places, the number for people who are just high achievers is limited. Since the Ivies will not stop giving places to the privileged, because their finances depend on the generosity of the rich, the argument homes in on affirmative action.2

There is much more. Worth reading the entire thing.