THIS is an awkward question, but here goes: Whyare Asian-Americans so successful in America?
It’s no secret that Asian-Americans are disproportionately stars in American schools, and evenin American society as a whole. Census data show that Americans of Asian heritage earn morethan other groups, including whites. Asian-Americans also have higher educational attainmentthan any other group.
I wrote a series of columns last year, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It,” about racial inequity,and one of the most common responses from angry whites was along these lines: This stuffabout white privilege is nonsense, and if blacks lag, the reason lies in the black communityitself. Just look at Asian-Americans. Those Koreans and Chinese make it in America becausethey work hard. All people can succeed here if they just stop whining and start working.
Let’s confront the argument head-on. Does the success of Asian-Americans suggest that theage of discrimination is behind us?
A new scholarly book, “The Asian American Achievement Paradox,” by Jennifer Lee and MinZhou, notes that Asian-American immigrants in recent decades have started with oneadvantage: They are highly educated, more so even than the average American. Theseimmigrants are disproportionately doctors, research scientists and other highly educatedprofessionals.
在新出版的学术著作《亚裔美国人成就的悖论》(The Asian American Achievement Paradox)中，作者珍妮弗·李(Jennifer Lee)和周敏注意到，美国亚裔移民近几十年来开始获得一项优势：他们的教育水平很高，甚至比美国人的平均学历还高。这些移民成为医生、科研人员，或从事其他高学历专业岗位的比例格外地高。
It’s not surprising that the children of Asian-American doctors would flourish in the UnitedStates. But Lee and Zhou note that kids of working-class Asian-Americans often also thrive,showing remarkable upward mobility.
And let’s just get one notion out of the way: The difference does not seem to be driven bydifferences in intelligence.
Richard Nisbett, a professor of psychology who has written an excellent book aboutintelligence, cites a study that followed a pool of Chinese-American children and a pool of whitechildren into adulthood. The two groups started out with the same scores on I.Q. tests, but inthe end 55 percent of the Asian-Americans entered high-status occupations, compared withone-third of the whites. To succeed as a manager, whites needed an I.Q. of 100, while Chinese-Americans needed an I.Q. of only 93.
So the Asian advantage, Nisbett argues, isn’t intellectual firepower as such, but how it isharnessed.
Some disagree, but I’m pretty sure that one factor is East Asia’s long Confucian emphasis oneducation. Likewise, a focus on education also helps explain the success of Jews, who are saidto have had universal male literacy 1,700 years before any other group.
Immigrant East Asians often try particularly hard to get into good school districts, or makeother sacrifices for children’s education, such as giving prime space in the home to kids tostudy.
There’s also evidence that Americans believe that A’s go to smart kids, while Asians are morelikely to think that they go to hard workers. The truth is probably somewhere in between, butthe result is that Asian-American kids are allowed no excuse for getting B’s — or even an A-.The joke is that an A- is an “Asian F.”
Strong two-parent families are a factor, too. Divorce rates are much lower for many Asian-American communities than for Americans as a whole, and there’s evidence that two-parenthouseholds are less likely to sink into poverty and also have better outcomes for boys inparticular.
Teachers’ expectations can also play a role. This idea was explored in a famous experiment inthe 1960s by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson.
老师的期待也会发挥作用。罗伯特·罗森塔尔(Robert Rosenthal)和莉诺·雅各布森(Lenore Jacobson)在60年代做的著名实验就探索了这一观点。