Crazy, Diverse Asians

Breakdown of Virginia’s Asian population by country of origin, 2017. Image source: StatChat blog

In their obsession with identity politics and racial/ethnic classification, federal and state governments in the United States classify millions of Americans as “Asian.” From a sociological perspective, “Asian” is a meaningless term. Asia is the world’s largest continent and has more diverse indigenous populations than any other. As this graphic from the University of Virginia’s Statchat blog makes clear, Virginians classified as “Asian” include people who trace their ancestry to the Indian subcontinent, Korea, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, Thailand, Pakistan, and many other countries. These people do not share a common language, culture, or history.

The circumstances under which these groups came to the United States vary widely. Many Indians and Pakistanis come from wealthier strata of their home countries and attended universities here. Others, like the Vietnamese and Cambodians, fled the Communists and landed penniless on American shores. Many Filipinos came to the U.S. by means of association with the U.S. Navy. One should be cautious when generalizing about “Asians.”

“Asians in Virginia are often stereotyped as a successful minority due to their high median household income and their significant share of employment in STEM-related occupations,” write the StatChat author, Kyaw Khine. Not surprisingly, he has found considerable variability among Asian groups in education and income.

Median household incomes of selected Asian population by country of origin, Virginia, 2017. Source: StatChat blog.

By far, Virginians of Indian origin outperform other “Asian” groups — exceeding all other groups in the percentage holding a B.A. degree, and earning 50% more than Chinese, Filipinos or Koreans. The Tiger Mom stereotype applies to ethnic Chinese, but here in Virginia, Indians are the high achievers. Khine attributes the differential in part to the fact that Virginia, especially Northern Virginia, has attracted educated workers through the H1B visa program. Since 2001, half of all H1B visas have been awarded to Indian nationals.

In summary, writes Khine:

The foreign-born Asian population in Virginia is diverse and consists of permanent residents, temporary workers, and humanitarian migrants. While certain Asian groups have higher shares of their populations holding high-level academic degrees, other Asian groups–especially those fleeing their home countries because of violence and persecution–have higher proportions holding less than a high-school diploma. Among the latter groups, median household incomes are generally much lower.

Bacon’s bottom line: Khine’s point is well taken. On this blog I have made much of the fact that “Asians” outperform whites, blacks and Hispanics in educational achievement, particularly in Standards of Learning test scores. I have attributed their superior performance to differences in culture — more tightly knit families, more self-discipline, greater willingness to defer gratification — never acknowledging that “Asians” encompass people from a wide variety of backgrounds. That said, “Asians” out-perform other ethnicities even when adjusted for economically advantaged or disadvantaged status. Regardless of their country or origin, poor “Asians” do better academically than poor whites, blacks and Hispanics.

Of course, if I am guilty of generalizing about “Asians,” I follow the lead of government officials and educators who exhibit a mania for racial classification. Racial classifications permeate the collection of statistics and every level of public-policy analysis. I look forward to the day when we can cease classifying one another by race and begin treating one another as individuals.

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10 responses to “Crazy, Diverse Asians

  1. Why do we continue to have “identity politics” ?

    Maybe because we still have folks like this who would have govt operate according to their abhorrent racist instincts and their version of “identity politics”?

    ” when we can cease classifying one another by race and begin treating one another as individuals.”

    This is why our urban areas vote Blue and yes… engage in identity politics also!

  2. Yes, although the median household income in Virginia (in 2017, in 2017 dollars) is $68,766. So, even the lowest median household income among the Asian categories is higher than the Virginia median. Meanwhile. a visual review of Thomas Jefferson High School’s graduates tells me that the Tiger Moms are having their effect.

    There is nothing wrong with a statistical examination of the real world.

  3. I’m confused about how various ethnic and national origin groups are classified. Asian appears to encompass people whose ancestors lived in Asian nations. But what about people whose ancestors came from the many states that used to be part of the Soviet Union? And people whose ancestors came from Middle Eastern nations? Is Asian from Asia?

    If Asian is something different than ancestors coming from an Asian nation, such as race, it makes sense not to group people with ancestors from the Middle East with people whose ancestors came from nations such as Korea, China, Vietnam, or Japan. But then why are people whose ancestors came from the Indian subcontinent included with Japan, China, etc.? People whose ancestors came from India (and Pakistan and Bangladesh) are Caucasians. The same questions arise with Africa.

    But people whose ancestors came from South America (Central America too) are considered to be the same whether their DNA comes from European or Native American ancestry. Shouldn’t this be consistent?

    Very puzzling unless it’s all about Democratic Party politics.

    • For whatever arcane reason, I believe, Middle Easterners are classified as “white.”

      I recall reading that there is a movement to break out Middle Easterners and Northern Africans as their own racial/ethnic classification.

  4. As I have said before, this is not a race issue, it is a cultural issue.

    In many parts of the Asian rim, and even the fragmented Indian subcontinent, there are very strong and cohesive societies that emphasize their culture and heritage, its competence and learning, in teaching its kids, while being also very adaptive and energetic at the same time, thanks to the efforts of parents and elders. That is what this is mostly about.

    It is ironic that these cultures now may have much to do with saving our own culture from our own broken educational system.

    And in showing us our old ways, this would include helping UVA professor E. D. Hirsch, Jr., and his allies, restore America’s great ideas about how it educates its children, and how it did so, so successfully starting in the first quarter of the 19th Century.

    To learn more listen, to Professor Hirsch. START AT MINUTE 22 – PAY CLOSE ATTENTION THEREAFTER TO CLEO’S DILEMMA.

    • You are so right, Steve, race and identity politics are killing our society, our nation, and our people. Unfortunately it is being driven in large part by our elite educational establishment, including those like Teresa Sullivan’s UVa., that gins up hate and identity politics to fever pitch among its students, then turns our graduated kids over to today’s media and politicians, left and right, who drive our children even further off the rails.

      Meanwhile, during their time in our colleges and universities, save for the hard sciences, the vast majority of those kids have learned next to nothing about their nation, their neighborhood, the world, or how to thrive productively in these places. We desperately need to change that.

      If a single generation grow ups taught to hate their country, and disrespect half of their fellow citizens, and believe even half the truth of what they have been wrongly and irresponsibly taught, the nation will collapse by its own hand, and fall easily into the hands of its enemies abroad. That is our future if we cannot even discuss building a pipeline without throwing race baiting slurs at one another. Where are the adults and leaders in this nation?

      E. D. Hersch, Jr. at UVA has been working on these problems for the better part of his lifetime. He now sees the possibility of change. We need to help make that change happen. He has given to us and others an important part of the puzzle. One that now is horrible missing, and hurting all our children badly, but the disadvantaged the worse.

    • “The American educational system is in perpetual crisis. Trailing behind students in other countries, our children appear to be forever losing ground. In THE LEARNING GAP, Harold Stevenson and James Stigler put this dilemma in perspective by comparing the successful teachers, parents, children, schools, and educational practices of Japan, Taiwan, and China with those of the United States. Based on five major studies funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation … this is the first comprehensive account of what works in elementary school education and what doesn’t – and why …”

      See also The Teaching Gap: Best Ideas from the World’s Teachers for Improving Education in the Classroom, Jun 16, 2009 by James W. Stigler and James Hiebert.

  5. The writers of the wonderful but short-lived TV series Firefly were correct. We will all be speaking Chinese one day…..

    It continues to cause me great chagrin to see us join in this bogus conversation. I detest the left’s appeal to identity politics, I detest Trump’s appeal to identity politics, but clearly both sides have seen success. TMT rightly points to how it is all meaningless, and I’m reading Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” which adds a new dimension. (How did I miss this book until now?) I am sorry Jim falls into their trap by pushing back on the merits instead of condemning the tactics. Here and with the earlier story on school discipline (which could have been written without any reference to race, IMHO.)

  6. Dear All,

    It’s hard to have a discussion when language becomes corrupted, even by Conservatives. “Nation” is related to the word “nativity” or birth. One is born into a nation. “Ethnic” comes from the Greek word, “ethnos” or people. When such folk speak of “nation”, it is just an agglomeration of rootless individuals who have no past and whose collective future is essentially entropic. Globalism and the loss of everything local and particular is their goal.

    What today’s “Conservatives” really want is the official Liberalism of the 1950s and first half of the 1960s, essentially a society ruled by a deracinated “meritocratic” elite drawn from all groups, sorted by standardized tests. They seek a society in which people move around, gradually lose touch with their families, the communities in which they were born and raised, that is if they ever had such a community, and many don’t. They desire what Ferdinand Tonies called, a “gesellschaft,” an impersonal society of weak social bonds, ripe for quick recruitment and disposal by capitalists. The identity politics, and “Bernie” style Socialism, that you all despise appeals to people who crave stronger social bonds, especially familial, ethnic or racial ones, a “gemeinschaft.” Blacks and other Non-Whites are encouraged to cultivate these, while they are taboo for Whites.

    Authentic Conservative Robert Nisbet argued in his _Quest For Community_ that this Liberal ideal, imposed by rootless elites, who are driven by a desire for higher status within large organizations upon ordinary people, is deeply alienating for most people who watch their neighborhoods melt away, as new groups are invited in by elites to take them over. One can see this not only by Whites who have seen their homes and country taken over by ambitious foreign immigrants, but also by Blacks who see their neighborhoods taken over by upscale White Liberals. The Liberal / “Reconstructed Conservative” goal is inhuman because it is at war with human nature, in which people, all people, are stripped of their origins and converted into “consuming animals” ruled by them. That is one reason, but not the only one, why we have identity politics today. For our elites, essentially imperialists, identities and loyalties of established peoples get in the way of doing business. In the end, everything devolves into money. Marx’s words praising the bourgeoisie’s destruction of traditional societies still applies. A true Conservative opposes these twin heresies, Capitalism and Socialism.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

    • Like so much of what you have to say, Andrew, this comment, so excellently written, is also profound, going straight and true into a central problem of our times. So it is a shame to see this comment pass off center stage.

      Having said, that I am not sure about how we resolve this, whether conservative or otherwise:

      “In the end, everything devolves into money. Marx’s words praising the bourgeoisie’s destruction of traditional societies still applies. A true Conservative opposes these twin heresies, Capitalism and Socialism.”

      Is there a tension here that, in some form will, and must be, with us always, so long as our human species survives, knowing we may be reaching now our end days, so meanwhile the challenge is wise management?

      Consider this written by Yuval Noah Harari in his fine book SAPIENS, A Brief History of Humankind:

      “The Capitalist Creed

      Money has been essential both for building empires and for promoting science. But is money the ultimate goal of these undertakings, or perhaps just the dangerous necessity?

      It is not easy to grasp the true role of economics in modern history. Whole volumes have been written about how money founded states and ruined them, opened new horizons and enslaved millions, moved the wheels of industry and drove hundred of species into extinction. Yet to understand modern economic history, you really need to understand just a single word. The word is growth. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, the modern economy has been growing like a hormone-soused teenager. It eats up everything it can find and puts on inches faster than you can count.

      For much of history the economy stayed much the same. Yes, global production increased, but this was mostly due to demographic expansion and the settlement of new lands. Per capita production remained static. But all that changed in the modern age. In 1500, global production of goods and services was equal to about $250 billion; today it hovers around $60 Trillion. … in 1500, annual per capita production averaged $550, while today every man, woman, and child produces, on the average, $8, 800 per year. What accounts for this stupendous growth?” See Chapter 16 of Sapiens.

      Harari goes on to explain that the answer lies in how, since 1500, our view of, and belief in, money has totally changed. Today, it is a total myth born out of a modern version of faith, a story of incrediable success that lies at the heart of today’s fabulous wealth that’s beyond all our imagination gone before. And a story of how this simple myth drives the world’s most powerful wealth creating engine even known, still driving our collective monetary wealth up beyond the stratosphere.

      Is this myth good or bad? Of course its both. And it’s not going away. So we must make choices constantly. So, for example, mine are great support for Amazon as a good wealth creator that, if properly regulated, breeds wealth and advantages for all of society and those within it. And also my great opposition to casino gambling that I view as a despicable wealth creator, one that destroys the people and societies that it feeds on and loots like a vampire, until it sucks the life out of all victims, unless our society spends huge sums to save those victims and families, before their collapse.

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