Virginia’s Not-So-Crazy Rich Asians

Graph credit: StatChat

Once the victims of discrimination, Asians now are prospering in the United States. The median income in 2017 for Asians in the United States was $83,500. That compared to a national average of $60,300 — a 38% differential.

In Virginia, Asians’ incomes, and the income gap with other Americans, was even greater: $101,500 compared to $71,500, a 42% differential. Indeed, Virginia is the state with the second highest average median household income for Asians, second only to New Jersey.

Why do Asians out-perform other racial and ethnic groups? One reason is that they cluster in urban areas, where wage levels are higher. You don’t see many Asian farmers or mill workers in the United States. (When I lived in Martinsville nearly 40 years ago, I knew a Korean textile mill foreman, a former bodyguard of a South Korean dictator, who had been exiled for some reason that I can no longer remember. But his family was the only Korean household in town.)

Another reason, according to the StatChat blog, published by the Demographics Research Group at the University of Virginia, is that Asians are represented disproportionately in high-paying STEM-H occupations such as health care; architecture & engineering; life, physical and social science; and computer & mathematical.

Virginia’s Asians are a highly diverse group encompassing Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Indians and Pakistanis, so we have to be careful with generalization. One thing all of these groups share, however, is strong, intact families that uphold the institution of marriage and insulate children from the corrosive temptations of popular culture. Generally speaking, Asian kids work harder at school, they are more likely to succeed academically, they are more likely to attend and complete college, and they are more likely to choose academically challenging career paths that lead to higher-paying jobs. Oh, and when the IRS calculates income, Asians are more likely to belong to two-income households.

The emphasis on academic achievement can be seen in comparisons of Standards of Learning test scores.

Not only do Asian students out-perform all other ethnic groups, including whites, disadvantaged Asian students out-performed their disadvantaged peers in other ethnic groups. Remarkably, disadvantaged Asian students out-performed all blacks and Hispanics. Some of the disparity in academic achievement may be attributable to the fact that academic performance is correlated with income and that Asian students belong to higher-income households. But the achievements of disadvantaged Asian students demonstrates something else is going on.

That something, I would argue, is a familial culture that values intact family structures, academic achievement, self-discipline, and a propensity to defer gratification. Singapore Asians may be “crazy,” to riff off the title of the popular movie, “Crazy Rich Asians,” but American Asians are anything but. More than any other group, Asians embody the virtues that made this country great. That’s why they have engendered so little ethnic animosity in contemporary society, and almost all Americans are happy to see them succeed.

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32 responses to “Virginia’s Not-So-Crazy Rich Asians

    • Back in the 1990’s, I attended a Cornell graduation ceremony, that involved all that year’s graduates of the entire university.

      As you likely know, Cornell has an exceptionally large graduate school generally, particularly in STEM. The names of every graduate that yeaf was listed in pamphlet handed out at the graduation. I will never forget seeing the list STEM PhDs. Only one out of many hundreds of STEM graduates had an obvious American last name. Most everyone else had names you would identify as Asian – “Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Indians and Pakistanis.”

      I agree with Jim that most of the disparity of academic performance, despite the opinion of some, is properly laid at the doorstep of culture. There is a great variety of ‘races’ and “ethic groups” in East Asia, South West Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent. There have been many up and downs concerning who among those many groups have dominated who over the millennia. The highly unstable mix of who is on top, and who is not, speaks to the great overriding importance of culture over race. Simply put good habits had very habit forming in achieving very good results. Bad habits are very habit forming in achieving very bad result. There is also strong evidence to show that IQ, and other related competencies, ebb and flow within groups of people depending on the cultural habit. In fact, this is one of the great lessons in the deep and serious study of serious unbiased history.

      • The first comment above is below corrected.

        Back in the 1990’s, I attended a Cornell graduation ceremony that involved all the graduates of the entire university. As you likely know, Cornell has an exceptionally large graduate school generally, particularly in STEM. The names of every graduate was listed in pamphlet handed out at the graduation. I will never forget seeing the list STEM PhDs. Only one out of many hundreds had an obvious American last name. Most everyone else had names you would identify as Asian – Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Indians and Pakistanis.

        I agree with Jim that most of this sort of disparity is properly laid at the doorstep of Culture. There is a great variety of ‘races’ and “ethic groups” in East Asia, South West Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent. Over great stretches of time here have been many up and downs concerning who, among these many groups, have dominated who over the millennia. This highly unstable mix of who is on top, and who is not, speaks to the great overriding importance of culture over race.

        Simply put, good habits were very habit forming in achieving very good results. Bad habits were very habit forming in achieving very bad results. And all this changed over time. Thus, there is strong evidence to show that IQ, and other related competencies, ebb and flow within groups of people depending on their cultural habit. In fact, this is one of the great lessons in the deep and serious study of history.

    • Steve, I get your point, but it also has me thinking we need to get more girls excited about math. . .

      I also wonder if there have been studies on performance by generation. Do first- and second-generations do better? Is there any dropoff with future generations?

      • There have been several good recent students. One well known study done in Sweden shows that women, given a free choice, very often leave STEM, particularly pure research, for more relational occupations.

        Why? It’s not so much a question of IQ, but of Attitude driven by aptitude. Of course, there many exceptions. Sweden as a test case was important because of its strong early encouragement of women into STEM. But when that aspect to Sweden’s cultural pressure was relaxed, many women, by their own then free choice, moved back into other occupations, often related, but that gave more meaning to their lives, that is working with people in more relational ways.

        It’s like the old example of reading body language by sex, the two guys sitting on a log talking will typically look into the distance. Put two women on a log, talking, and they far more likely will turn toward one another to relate because that is what they prefer to do naturally. Guess what? There is a difference between boys and girls, despite today’s fads.

        This kind of talk of course drives the feminists crazy mad, as Larry Summer learned as president of Harvard back in 2005.

  1. Asian-American success is probably one of the reasons Harvard University (and likely others) is intentionally discriminating against them with respect to admissions.

    And not every Asian-American family is wealthy.

    • Yeah, Harvard has an inferiority complex – hates it when “a race” outperforms them, shows them up academically. But loves a ‘race’ that they can pretend to help, show off, and care about.

      It fact, Harvard’s admissions policies do enormous and long lasting harm to at least half, if not more, of their black students. This fact as been proven over and over again. And the elites universities, starting with Harvard, ignore all this damage to black students, because their presence at Harvard increases their USN&WR rankings.

      Here’s a good and authoritative primer on that crime –

      The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture, Sep 4, 2018 by Heather Mac Donald

      Read that book and weep.

  2. This gets into my gripe that no warm-blooded American student would dare go into some criminally-unethical, society-destroying job like working with fossil fuels. Hence we do need immigrants who have not yet been brain-washed to have intense hatred for manufacturing jobs in America.

  3. Let me add another one to Steves to demonstrate that it’s not just US Asians:

    so… does this mean than all Asians are more culturally inclined towards education or perhaps Asian countries, in general have much more robust academics? Something going on here, right?

    • PISA evaluations are good in that they allow longitudinal comparisons, but the highest performers tend to have high-pressure, rote learning systems. Singapore, despite being top in all categories, is making major changes to get kids to be more creative, remove unproductive pressure, and increase real world experience:

      https://www.economist.com/asia/2018/08/30/it-has-the-worlds-best-schools-but-singapore-wants-better

      I think one of the biggest issues in the U.S. is the wide range of performance. I lived in Austin, Texas for a bit and the school district where I lived was rated high in performance even compared to Singapore schools (and it was not predominately Asian). To improve, we have to address the underperforming schools, which is not an easy issue.

      • Izzo, do the small minority of Chinese population there still dominate Singapore so totally as they have in the past?

        • Ethnic Chinese are about 75% of the population, with Malays about 15% and Indians the largest group after that. To me it seems the Malays lag in income and education.

      • How to improve under-performing schools is already very well known. For a short primer on that subject read Chapter title “Black Education, Achievement, Myths and Tragedies (pg. 203 245) in Thomas Sowell’s book Black Rednecks and White Liberals. He explains how superior public Black Education collapsed in the mid-1950, with the collapse of our culture, including the black culture. One of the key lessons learned here is that none of this stuff is race specific. All of it applies to all of us, no matter our race or color, or financial advantage. Color and race is a false construct. Culture is most everything, and that truth goes down to the level of every schoolhouse. This can shown over and over again, with all races and colors and schools.

        Many of our black leaders use to know this, going back to the 19th century at least. This grievance society today is purely built for political maneuver and advantage. Our good private and charter schools, and the far too few good public schools, today prove this fact every day.

      • re: ” the highest performers tend to have high-pressure, rote learning systems.”

        but doesn’t that translate into success in the workplace also?

        what’s the point of superior academics if it’s not really related to work and productivity in the economy?

        re: ” I think one of the biggest issues in the U.S. is the wide range of performance. I lived in Austin, Texas for a bit and the school district where I lived was rated high in performance even compared to Singapore schools (and it was not predominately Asian). To improve, we have to address the underperforming schools, which is not an easy issue.”

        I agree but what does it mean with regard to countries that are academically superior to the US – in terms of “wide range of performance”?

        Does this chart tell us something about the US?

        • What’s the relationship between childhood poverty and illegitimacy? Unmarried births at all levels of income has been rising in the United States.

          What is the relationship between childhood poverty and illegal immigration? Open borders has a cost and that cost will increase as automation, robots and AI take over more menial, low-skilled jobs in the economy.

          • TMT – is illegitimacy reflected ONLY at the low performing schools? I suspect it’s more widespread than that but I’ll also point out that when poor people cannot get regular jobs – they gravitate towards jobs they can do which involve drugs and we imprison people for drugs at a higher rate than any other country on the planet – and this breaks up families and leaves one parent – who often has to work – and children on their own…

            On immigration and childhood poverty – again – if you look at the low performing schools and the percentage of hispanics (not that all of them are illegal anyhow) – does it bear out your premise?

            I did find this chart – that does seem to back up the view about immigrants and childhood poverty:

        • Larry, I think the Singaporeans want to make changes because they think the current system (rote learning) will not serve them as well in the economy of tomorrow. Note that U.S. actually exceeds most of the higher ranked countries in productivity per hour worked, so rote education is not the economic cure all.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_hour_worked

          • Izzo – my understanding is that American kids learn mostly rote and do not have critical thinking – the ability to use their learned knowledge to solve real world problems whereas their counterparts in other nations outperform them in these areas and it is these areas that the 21st century economy demands for workers.

            I had not seen the productivity per hour – normalized to PPP – and it is a reflection of how automation and robots have replaced workers in factories. That’s an indication, in my view, of the state of our infrastructure such as a highly reliable widespread electric grid and our transportation network.

            But if you look at the ethnicity in things like tech companies CEOs and doctors, and the like – you’ll see a lot of foreign surnames of folks who came to the US on H1 Visas. Our companies cannot find enough workers with the higher level educations they need.

            Yes -we still maintain an advantage on productivity but we have a problem with education. We have way too many poor kids who end up not well educated and on entitlements and have kids and repeat the cycle. More and more of our kids dread math and especially the “word” problems in math… that do require critical thinking skills.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Izzo says:

            “I think the Singaporeans want to make changes because they think the current system (rote learning) will not serve them as well in the economy of tomorrow.”

            Well, then Singaporeans will be getting themselves into trouble.

            The three essential keys to educating children are:

            1/ WORK
            2/ DISCIPLINE
            3. DIRECT EDUCATION

            Our failing public schools have none of these essential ingredients for success. Our successful schools, most all of them private or charter, have all three critical qualities in abundance. Such has always been the cae throughout the history of our schools. This is why that 11th grade WWII Marine I mentioned earlier was so well educated.

            This is the reason why the education of freed slaves was so successful during the post Civil War reconstruction period in the “missionary schools” set up by northern teachers who headed down south during that period. It is also why the successful education of blacks down south mostly fell apart after those missionary schools were closed down after the collapse of Reconstruction.

            That is also why superior black education in outstanding schools, segregated and otherwise continued during and after Reconstruction in those black schools that, along with white schools and mixed race schools, that maintained:

            1/ WORK
            2/ DISCIPLINE
            3. DIRECT EDUCATION

            A classic example of such a wonderfully successful all black school was the 12th street high school (later renamed Dunbar High School) in DC that produced so many well educated kids until it was forced to closed down in the mid 1950s. This is also why US public education began its long collapse, generally, throughout the nation in the 1960s. Namely, public education then began its collapse with the concurrent collapse of:

            1/ WORK
            2/ DISCIPLINE
            3. DIRECT EDUCATION.

            These gross failures of our American education system continue to this day, thanks to irrevocably flawed modern educational theory.

            What is Direct Education? For a short primer on that subject, see this short primer:

            ALSO read the works of E. D. Hirsch, Jr., namely

            1/ Cultural Literacy,
            2/ The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them,
            3/ The Knowledge Deficit,
            4/The Making of Americans,
            6/Why Knowledge Matters.

            Dr. Hirsch is a professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia.

  4. Fairfax County public schools have high SAT scores because the school population is over 20% Asian. After correcting for demographics, the Fairfax County public schools underperform.

    • This tracks precisely with what TMT has told us again and again. And the great majority of those Fairfax County Asians arrived here destitute starting in the mid 1970s. They had nothing but a culture. Same thing with the Irish, and the great majority of them were illiterate, impoverished beyond belief, for generations, abused by outside occupying forces for centuries, but had a faith.

    • I think when we look at the aggregate Fairfax County data -, it’s a snapshot that can be misleading and it’s much less misleading and more informative if you look at ALL the individual schools in Fairfax. When you do this -you’ll see a significant variance in performance between the schools with the higher performers being schools in upscale neighborhoods and the lower performers being schools serving poorer neighborhoods.

      A scatter chart comparing income levels of each school district compared to it’s SOLs would fairly clearly show this.

      VDOE, by the way does provide this data in raw form. You have to download it and do your own data crunching.

      DATA FOR RESEARCHERS & DEVELOPERS
      A number of education data sets are available for use by policymakers, educators, the public, program directors and researchers through the Virginia Longitudinal Data System.

      http://www.doe.virginia.gov/statistics_reports/research_data/index.shtml

      • But it’s indisputable that Fairfax County Public Schools spends significantly more on low-income students (even excluding students in ESOL and Special Education). So if spending the extra money doesn’t produce the desired results, are we wasting money on those students? If we are wasting money, shouldn’t we try different approaches such as Charter Schools (strip away the power of the local school board to stop them) and/or vouchers?

        Don’t they say that stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Public education is as much a jobs program as it is an effort to educate children.

        • I’d be fine with competitors to the public school system – as long as they also have to meet the same standards for performance.

          I do not think there are many that are chomping at the bit to take these lower-income/harder-to-teach kids and prove they can do it when the public schools cannot (which by the way is not true). Some public schools do a good job of teaching these kids – others do not and perversely it’s the school systems in the larger communities where the housing is essentially segregated by income level and the neighborhood schools have much larger numbers of at-risk kids.

          But here’s another question. How come Fairfax – which is one of the richest counties in the country and has some of the best public schools in the country – also has some of the worst – the very same people run the entire system that has the best and the worst.

          So how can we say that Fairfax Schools is primarily a “jobs” program when a higher percentage of kids attend college from Fairfax than most other school systems in Virginia?

          That’s the thing. Henrico – and Chesterfield near Richmond have some of the best schools in the state – and some of the worst – same school administrators for both good and bad schools. So how can the same folks in charge of some of the best schools – also be the same people in charge of some of the worst?

          Do we REALLY think that non-public schools really want the hardest-to-teach kids and believe they can do better?

          I think it’s a myth … myself.. but I’m more than willing to give those non-public schools the opportunity to also “fail”.

          • Places like D.C., Detroit, New Orleans, Kansas City, Gary (IN), Flint (MI) and Philadelphia have lots of charter schools and many poor children. And many of these schools are producing better results than public schools.

            They need to be monitored and held to statewide standards just like any school receiving taxpayer money.

            And, yes, Fairfax County Public Schools is a jobs program. Just try proposing anything that would eliminate jobs, such as contracting for food service, custodial services or school buses and watch the School Board come out fighting. The state conducted an audit of FCPS a few years ago and found FCPS had too many assistant principals. They are still on the payroll.

  5. It feels a little like America is back in the early 1950’s before Sputnik got our STEM juices flowing. Maybe worse shape now with globalization and we sort of let the rest of the world eat our STEM lunch.

  6. Our problem is that we are basically still “segregated” but no longer racially but instead by income levels because incomes define what kind of neighborhood most can afford to live in – and the more common pattern is that the bigger school systems have neighborhood schools for the low-income neighborhoods and those schools are typically NOT staffed with the best, most experienced teachers but rather the newbies and cast-offs… because the better teachers get to pick better schools to teach.

    We need to increase pay or other benefits to the teachers that would, with the right incentives go teach at these low-income schools. Right now – with the blame showered down on them – it’s a threat to their teaching careers so it’s a no-brainer to not go there; same pay – get blamed for lower SOL scores, get fired… etc…

    • The McLean Citizens Association Education Committee did a study a few years ago and found that McLean-area schools had a higher percentage of new, young and inexperienced teachers than the County average. Low-income schools in Fairfax County get extra reading and math teachers and had all-day kindergarten years before it spread to the rest of the county.

      We devote many more resources to low-income students in Fairfax County. So where are the results?

  7. Here’s a key metric for schools. How many years of experience does the teacher have and do they have additional education to deal with the harder-to-teach kids.

    So I’d like to see that metric when we look at schools that are under-performing.

    I think SOME , not all, public schools ARE failing the low-income kids because schools are tied to neighborhoods and invariably low-income neighborhood schools have performance problems. No decent teacher is willingly going to teach at those schools. The pay is the same. It’s a much harder job and there is a significant threat to one’s career when scores come in low and the administrators look for scapegoats.

    I cannot imagine how a charter school for the same low-income kids could attract good teacher either. What would they offer them better than a public school in a “good” neighborhood?

    Still – it’s CLEAR that the public school system has failed and we need competitive alternatives – but we need the same performance standards or else we have not solved anything – we just swept it under the rug.

    I’m for constructive solutions – not the blame game. It’s easy to blame – to tear down to undermine… but that’s not going to fix the problem.

    I think there is great potential in “on-line” – we’re seeing it more and more in alternative schooling and homeschooling… and the beauty of it is that computers can effectively function as personal tutors..something a classroom teacher cannot do in a room with 15 kids and half of them are “behind”.

    If Charter/Non-public schools can use technology to overcome the staff problem – it may well be a path to better outcomes.

  8. Essentially, Larry, I don’t think you want any accountability for taxpayer dollars. If we entrust someone with significant sums of our tax dollars, it is only appropriate for that person to be held accountable for results. With elected officials, we do this by voting. For appointed officials, they should be subject to removal.

    The private sector includes blame for failure. Managers don’t get to ask for higher and higher budgets when they fail to deliver the result. And often, a pattern of failure means loss of jobs. Why shouldn’t we hold our public schools to the same standard?

  9. Interesting that most of us rail against Dominion’s monopoly but want to protect the public school’s monopoly. There is a good reason for society to fund education but that does not mean the public sector needs to provide education. I’m not ready to close down our public schools but I’d sure like to see charter schools competing for the public tax dollar in a race to better educate children and young adults.

    We have a much more competitive situation in higher education than in K-12. And much of the reason why we have state monopolies are the Blaine Amendment to state constitutions. That, of course, was driven by anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant bigotry in the 19th Century. And yes, there is still a difference between legal and illegal immigration.

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