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Asian Americans Are on Ascent, Says Pew Survey

Vivia Chen

April 22, 2013

Business man and woman © Paylessimages - Fotolia.com(3)Editor's note: This is part one of series on Asian Americans. (Click here for part two.)

 The Tiger Mom has been quiet lately, but I think I just heard her roar. If you read the Pew Research Center's recent survey on Asian Americans, you can't help but feel her presence.

Pew finds that Asian Americans are doing well—very well—and that their success seems to stem in large part from the culture's emphasis on academic achievement and hard work. According to a survey of 3,511 Asian Americans, Pew reports:

Asian Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States. They 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, according to a comprehensive new nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center.

So the Tiger Mom was right: Sitting on your kids to make high grades and denying them frivolities like sleepovers will make them more successful—and contented—in the long run. So take that, all you let-your-kids-be-free types!

Here are the specific findings about Asian Americans from Pew:

- Asian Americans are better educated and wealthier. They exceed all U.S. adults in attaining a college degree (49 percent vs. 28 percent), median annual household income ($66,000 vs. $49,800), and median household wealth ($83,500 vs. $68,529).

- They are "more satisfied" than the general public with their lives overall (82 vs. 75 percent), their personal finances (51 vs. 35 percent) and the general direction of the country (43 vs. 21 percent).

- They have a strong work ethic—a "pervasive belief in the rewards of hard work." About seven in 10 (69 percent) believe that people can get ahead if they work hard. (Only 58 percent of Americans overall share that view.)

- Their kids are under pressure. Thirty nine percent of Asian Americans also think they put too much pressure on children to succeed. (Six in 10 Asian Americans also say American parents put too little pressure on their kids.)

- Discrimination is not a big deal. Only 13 percent call it a major problem, while 48 percent identity it as "minor," and 35 percent say it's "not a problem."

I must say I got a chuckle that almost 40 percent of Asian Americans thought that they put too much pressure on kids—while, at the same time, a sizable portion thought that most Americans don't apply enough pressure. As an Asian American parent myself, I can tell you I'm a bit schizoid on the issue. You don't want to be called a "Tiger Mom," but you don't want to be labeled a laid-back "Panda" mom either.

In any case, I'm surprised how optimistic this report is. I'm especially astonished that the vast majority of Asian Americans view discrimination as a minor or nonexistent problem for themselves. (I'll be addressing that issue in a future post, particularly in the context of the legal profession.)

In the meantime, tell me what you think of this Pew study. Are Asian Americans as successful, happy, and in control of their destiny as the report suggests?

Related posts: Tiger Mom Chats with the Careerist; The Crusaders; Supermom, Chinese Style.


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These statistics are interesting, but I’m disturbed by Ms. Chen’s commentary. Ms. Chen's commentary assumes that there is a cause and effect relationship between the "Tiger Mom" approach and success and satisfaction. This assumption is unsubstantiated and perpetuates stereotypes by suggesting that all Asian American parents are Tiger Moms.

The theme of Ms. Chen's piece seems to be that the Tiger Mom is responsible for Asian American success and satisfaction. I hope she is being sarcastic. Sarcastic or not, Ms. Chen is not doing Asian Americans any favors by perpetuating stereotypes. This is a bit ironic since Ms. Chen is astonished that the vast majority of Asian Americans view discrimination as a minor or nonexistent problem.

My parents were not "Tiger" parents, and I think my brother and I are both doing fine. Just because I'm a highly-educated Asian American satisfied with life does not mean I have parents who "sat" on me to make high grades and denied me of "frivolities" of childhood.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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