Assessing what is cultural about Asian Americans' academic advantage
Date of Issue2014
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Scholars have long debated the reasons underlying Asian Americans’ exceptional educational outcomes. Psychologists emphasize individual cognitive ability and the effects of stereotypes on performance (1). Culturalists point to values, beliefs, norms, and behavioral patterns unique and intrinsic to ethnicity (2). Structuralists focus on socioeconomic status within and beyond the family, including a group’s position in a society’s status hierarchy (3, 4). Data limitations and quantitative modeling constraints, combined with contentious ethnic politics, have rendered social scientists at an intellectual stalemate. This standstill has consequences: The lack of a strong social science voice in the debate has lead pundits to liberally evoke culture to explain poor or exceptional group outcomes (5, 6); the simplistic framing of group culture has fanned fury, pitted groups against each other, and led Civil Rights activists to advocate for group interests to promote a political agenda. Meanwhile, the general public has remained deprived of knowledge generated from rigorous scientific research. However, Amy Hsin and Yu Xie propel the debate forward with their refreshing analyses and insight in their PNAS report, “Explaining Asian Americans’ academic advantage over whites” (7).
Proceedings of the national academy of sciences
© The Author(s). This paper was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is made available as an electronic reprint (preprint) with permission of the Author(s). The paper can be found at the following official DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1407309111. One print or electronic copy may be made for personal use only. Systematic or multiple reproduction, distribution to multiple locations via electronic or other means, duplication of any material in this paper for a fee or for commercial purposes, or modification of the content of the paper is prohibited and is subject to penalties under law.