Asian American Demographic

From Urban Faith by Christine A. Scheller:

Asian Americans are on the rise demographically, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. But some activists object, saying the community is not monolithic.

“Asian Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States,” according to a new Pew Research Center report, which is curiously titled, ”The Rise of Asian Americans.” Members of this community are “more satisfied than the general public with their lives, finances and the direction of the country, and they place more value than other Americans do on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success,” the report said.

What do you think?
Does this survey reinforce stereotypes about Asian Americans?

Asian-American groups quickly pounced on the research, however, saying the community is hardly monolithic. The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans issued a statemen saying the survey “could lead some to draw conclusions that reflect inaccurate stereotypes about Asian Americans being a community with high levels of achievement and few challenges.”

“Pacific Islander women experience myriad health disparities, discrimination, long-term unemployment, domestic violence, foreclosure and more, but reports like this make it hard for those in need to have their voices heard,” echoed the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

The Japanese American Citizens League also expressed dissatisfaction: “Asian Americans make up 5.6% of the U.S. population and include over 45 different ethnicities speaking over 100 different dialects. While our community reflects diversity, this research does not; instead, it sweeps Asian Americans into one broad group and paints our community as exceptionally successful without any challenges. This study perpetuates false stereotypes and the model minority. The JACL strongly advocates for further research and analysis specifically regarding disaggregated data collection.”

Colorlines reported similar sentiments from the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. “More than a third of all Hmong, Cambodian and Laotian Americans over the age of 25 don’t have a high school degree,” the article. And, “while some Asians may report incomes at or higher than whites, Cambodian and Laotian Americans report poverty rates as high as, and higher than, the poverty rate of African Americans, according to the 2010 census.”

Pew Senior Researcher Cary Funk responded to Colorlines, saying the survey is “a detailed analysis of the census data combined with a nationally representative survey of all Asian Americans. …If you are going to talk about Asian Americans as a whole then the facts are what the facts are.”

The Rise of Asian Americans was based on “a nationally representative sample of 3,511 Asian Americans” who were interviewed in English and seven Asian languages by telephone from January 3 to March 27, 2012, the report said.

This being a presidential election year, there is, of course, a political angle. ”Even though Asian Americans are slightly less than 6 percent of the U.S. population, they have become much-coveted voters. Both President Obama’s re-election campaign and the Republican Party have launched efforts to reach Asian-American voters and encourage members of the community to run for elective office, The Seattle Times reported.

What do you think?
Does this survey reinforce stereotypes about Asian Americans?


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  • Pat Pope

    Well, no community is monolithic. But I’m not sure the problem is with the survey so much as it is with us and how we think. We tend to read things like this and just lump everyone into the same barrel, ignoring the fact that we are all individuals. While IN GENERAL Asian Americans may prize marriage, I know of some who have gotten divorced and probably similar examples could be brought forth regarding other points made in the survey. We just really need to think more broadly as people.

  • JohnM

    “Asian American” is way too broad of a category…to really be much of a category. How much, for example, does Indian culture have in common with Japanese culture? Ethnically, linguistically, historically, and geographically Italy has more in common with the UK than Korea does with the Philippines, yet we don’t really speak much of “European American” as a category.

    Of course the survey does break it down by country. Depending upon specific country of origin maybe there is some truth to the survey findings. If it is factual, is it a sterotype?

  • The survey does perpetuate the “model minority” stereotype. But this stereotype is rooted in real socio-economic success of the part of a large segment of the Asian American population. The challenges facing certain groups of Asian Americans are very real, but seemingly outweighed by the larger number of “success” stories. In any event, I think that current Asian American “achievement” are rooted in a selective immigration policy that admitted the best educated to the U.S. over the past forty years. Those who arrived as refugees and their children, for instance, have had a much more difficult time. Asian American churches, by the way, also reflect this diversity.

    Nevertheless, the problem is not so much lumping all Asian Americans together under the “model minority” stereotype, but the perception of being rendered the “other” in American society – that may lead to continued anti-Asian discrimination.

    I’ve selected some quotes from Frank Wu’s New York Times op-ed “Why Vincent Chin Matters?” which reflects on the thirtieth anniversary of Chin’s murder. These may help frame the reaction by the Asian American community.

    Tim Tseng, Former Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity (ISAAC)

    “Asian-Americans” — a term that many Asian-Americans themselves do not use — are, of course, more a demographic category than a community arising from shared language, religion, history or culture. Yet for all our diversity, we share an experience of otherness. The fifth-generation Japanese-American from California, the Hmong refugee in Wisconsin, the Indian engineer in Texas, the Korean adoptee in Chicago and the Pakistani taxi driver in New York — all have at times been made to feel alien, sometimes immutably so.

    Though the study noted that discrimination, poverty and language barriers still confront refugees, undocumented immigrants and other vulnerable groups, Asian-American advocates for social justice winced. Despite decades of debunking by social scientists and historians, the model minority myth — Asian-Americans as overachieving nerds — persists. The study was based on a rigorous survey, though relying on self-reported attitudes and behaviors is not a fireproof methodology.

    But the more important criticism is this: When it comes to race, nuance matters. The Pew findings encourage us to consider how positive attitudes may contribute to socioeconomic success. But history also teaches us that before Asian-Americans were seen as model minorities, we were also perpetual foreigners. Taken together, these perceptions can lead to resentment. And resentment can lead to hate.

  • Tracy

    Asian Americans are a huge story in American Christianity too. Will they follow the pattern of other immigrants, with gradually less loyalty to ethnic churches –(ie. Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese) in the way Italian Catholics, Irish Catholic, and Norwegian Lutherans became less tight knit?

  • rwh

    My East Asian side says the stereotypes are totally true! My Southeast Asian side says they’re absolutely false! But my Italian side says, Ciao! as I ride away with una bella ragazza on my Vespa while Germany continues to subsidize la mia dolce vita!