Truth Behind The Success of Asian Americans and The Myth We All Believe

By: Jisoo Chung

Whenever there is a topic about how we can better our educational system in America, it always seems to put emphasis on African American and Hispanic students, while Asian American students are never brought up in the discussion. When discussing which ethnic groups need help, Hispanic and African American students are generalized as those who “lag behind their white classmates”. However with Asian American students, they are never mentioned when measuring academic success because there is a belief that they are amongst the most successful ethnic groups and the ones who score the highest in standardized exams. By looking at different resources people rely on whether it would be from media, congress, or even in their own classrooms, Asian Americans are put as an example of “model minorities” by their percentage of income and higher education. This then makes people question if Asian Americans can do so well, why can’t these other ethnic groups like Hispanics and African Americans do well?

This myth that people believe in are not only hiding the reality of subgroups amongst Asian Americans that need help, but are affecting them when generalized with the other Asian ethnic groups with their wealth and academic success. The truth is majority of Americans do not know the truth and the success amongst different Asian ethnic groups. If one were to look at the details of the underrepresented ethnic groups in the data everything changes. The term “Asian Americans” we use it to describe different Asian ethnic groups is basically an umbrella that covers all of Asian ethnic groups represented by 48 different countries in America. Out of those 48 countries, data only covers six of the largest ethnic groups; Indian American, Chinese American, Filipino Americans, Japanese Americans, Korean Americans, and Vietnamese Americans. Only the six of the largest ethnic groups are measured to show the success of Asian American students, while the rest of the 42 different ethnic groups are never mentioned. When data is separated by their own different subgroups, the picture of success amongst Asian Americans starts to change.

When comparing the median household income, Indian Americans have the highest with $95,000, while Bangladeshi Americans only average $46,950 a year. The difference with household income is not the only thing, but also with academic success. When grouped together Asian Americans seem to be well educated, but when combining the subgroups of Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotian together, less than 17% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. (Khatharya) Comparing that to Indian and Chinese Americans where more than 70% and 50% have Bachelor’s degree, respectively. Even when talking about poverty Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese have higher poverty rates than the U.S. Average of 12.4%. Problem is that data do get collected by Census and by different agencies, but it is never reported because of other variables. Data is specifically important because it has an effect when government makes different policies and provides resources only for certain ethnic groups.

In the article “A Dream Denied” talks about the lack of resources that are provided amongst Southeast Asians, whether it would be with higher education, college preparatory courses, or other essential preparation for college admission. It is not only the African Americans and Hispanics that lack the resources to succeed in academia, but also the subgroups of Asian Americans that are never talked about or represented. Some of Khatharya recommendations at the end talks about how we must foster collaboration amongst stakeholders to enhance the educational achievement of Southeast Asians in secondary and post-secondary institution, and create a scholarship program with coordinating institution. (Khatharya)


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