Shiao, J. L. (2023). Over-educated or Overly Invested in Education? The Role of Educational Commitment in Asian American Socioeconomic Attainment. Race and Social Problems.
Recent scholarship has attributed Asian American socioeconomic attainment to the exceptional selectivity of Asian immigrants since 1965 while also characterizing the second generation as limited by a glass ceiling. Other scholars are critical of the hyper-selectivity thesis for minimizing the role of Asian-family commitment to education and exaggerating Asian disadvantage in the labor market. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, I explore how two components of cultural capital (parental educational expectations and adolescent efforts at schoolwork) affect respondents’ high-school grade point average (GPA), their degree attainment by adulthood, and their incomes in adulthood. I find partial support for the expected mechanisms in the debate, identify GPA as a critical mediator between family background and racial disparities in adulthood, and show that academic performance (GPA) is a “bottleneck” for the relative advantages of the Asian second-generation in both education and the labor market, particularly for Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese Americans. Exploratory analysis also suggests an important role for cross-racial social capital. My conclusion discusses the implications of my findings for advancing the hyper-selectivity debate and rethinking the racial status of Asian Americans in the sociology of race/ethnicity. If Asian Americans represent a “model” to other minorities, it may not only be for their commitment to education but also for their relative acceptance by Whites in the critically important socioeconomic domain.
Race and Social Problems
Shiao, J. L.
November 10, 2023