This diary is a companion piece to a diary I did earlier on Latinos. I am interested in trying to unpack the broad ethnic/racial classifications that get reported and discussed. The US is going through another demographic upheaval and we need a better understanding of it than just the headlines.
They have a higher average level of educational attainment and income levels than white Americans and much higher than blacks and Latinos. This has opened up lots of debate. Let's start by looking at the make up of the total group in terms of ethnicity and national origin. This much is not a matter of debate.
One very significant fact about Asian Americans is that in 2009 they surpassed Latinos as the largest source of new immigrants to the US. The Latino population in now growing more from births in the US than from immigration. However, because Asians started from a much smaller base and Latinos have a higher birth rate they are not projected to become nearly as large a group as Latinos. At this point Asians are estimated to constituted the largest number of undocumented immigrants. Here is a breakdown of current green card holders in the US and how that is changing. It reflects the growing Asian presence.
There is a running controversy about the notion that Asian Americans have gone from being considered the yellow peril to the model minority. This new meme comes in the context of 21st C America where the European immigrants such as Jews, Italians, etc. who were treated as minorities have become generally assimilated to the white population. The comparison of Asians to other minorities is being made with them and blacks and Latinos. There are a number of advocates and scholars within the Asian community and elsewhere who are questioning the accuracy and value of this newly minted trope.
It’s not every day that deep and rigorous research about Asian Americans is released to the public. So when the well-respected Pew Research Center released “The Rise of Asian Americans,” a comprehensive report on the community on Tuesday, it should have been reason enough to celebrate. Instead, the report, which hailed Asians as the fastest-growing and highest-achieving racial group in the country, drew widespread criticism from Asian American scholars, advocates and lawmakers who raised alarm about the report, and warned against taking it seriously at all. Poor research of an oft-overlooked community, it turns out, might do more damage than no research at all.
We are “deeply concerned about how findings from a recent study by the Pew Research Center have been used to portray Asian Americans,” the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, a network of civil rights advocacy groups said on Wednesday. The report’s authors, the AACAJ said, “paint a picture of Asian Americans as a model minority, having the highest income and educational attainment among racial groups. These portrayals are overly simplistic.”
Critics say the Pew report mixes some fact with too much mythology about what people imagine Asians to be. While a portrayal of Asian Americans as high-achieving, and adept at overcoming humble beginnings to reach great financial and educational success seems flattering, many Asian Americans say this frame is not only factually inaccurate, it’s damaging to the community.The greatest point of controversy is data about income. The Pew report uses median household income as its data source and comes up with these rankings.
While this does point up the great diversity within the total Asian community, the reality seems to be that using either household or individual income, the majority of Asian Americans are doing better than the general public. There are numerous factors involved in this trend. Selective immigration of people with technical skills plays a part with groups such as Indians and Taiwanese. There are also more basic cultural factors and traditions that make a contribution to education and financial achievement.
In California which has the greatest concentration of both Asians and Latinos the politics of all this get very interesting. The face of America is clearly changing. Asian Americans are playing a growing role in that change.