Over-educated or Overly Invested in Education? The Role of Educational Commitment in Asian American Socioeconomic Attainment


Shiao, Jiannbin Lee (2024). Over-educated or Overly Invested in Education? The Role of Educational Commitment in Asian American Socioeconomic Attainment. Race and Social Problems. vol. 16 (2) pp. 167-184


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.




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Race and Social Problems


Shiao, Jiannbin Lee

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