Study: Work Ethic Allows Asian-Americans to Outperform Peers

White students lag behind their Asian-American peers, and the reason may be simple. Asian-American students try harder.

An article shared on the Institute of Physics' website,, reports that two separate studies which tracked white and Asian students from kindergarten through high school revealed that the two groups of students begin school on a level playing ground. It is around the fifth grade that Asian-Americans begin to "significantly outperform whites," and the difference in performance peaks at grade 10. The studies took into account teacher ratings, test scores, immigration factors, and family income and education level among other variables.

The results, overall, suggest that the achievement gap occurs because of the levels of academic drive rather than in cognitive ability differences. The Asian cultural teaching that supports the idea that inborn ability is trumped by a high level of effort to achieve is strongly ingrained. Also, pressure from Asian-American parents is a factor that increases student success even more in Asian-American students.

Although this pressure has become a stereotype, it is a positive one. Unfortunately, negative stereotypes may impede the academic achievement of African-American students, according to the findings of the scientists at Queens College of New York, the University of Michigan and Peking University in Beijing. The study was published in the May 5 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

A negative aspect of the "push to achieve" mentality of Asian-American parents, whether their homeland is the Philippines, South Asia, Southeast Asia, or East Asia, is that the children being told to put forth more effort report fewer positive feelings about themselves. These children also have more parental-child conflict than do white students. It was also discovered that Asian-American children spent less time with their friends.

The study has given weight to the "Tiger Mom" theory. The picture painted of a Tiger Mom is that of an Asian-American mother who is authoritarian and less permissive that white mothers, according to Lauren Wilson, social affairs writer for News Corp, Australia. The term ‘Tiger Mom' comes from a book written by Amy Chua, a Yale Law School professor, which outlines the manner in which she is raising her own daughter. Her parenting model has a direct link to Chinese tradition.

Asian-Australians, says Karen Yuan Wang, a professor at the University of Technology in Sydney, do put more of a premium on academic excellence than White-Australian parents. Chinese parents see working hard as the key to getting ahead and, consequently, getting into top universities.

The characteristics of ‘Tiger Moms' and their ‘Cubs' are:

Tiger Moms

— Authoritarian figures and firm disciplinarians

— Foster a strong sense of interdependence on, and respect for, the family unit

— Hold very high expectations of their children's academic performance

— Not inclined to accept their children's failures

— Often restrict their children's social activities


Tiger Cubs

— Keenly aware of their parents' high academic expectations

— Highly motivated in the classroom

— Typically attend extra-curricular classes like music and extra tutoring

— Tend to socialize less with friends

— Tend to have more conflict with their parents


05 6, 2014
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