In May, an article in the opinion pages of The New York Times addressed the subject of Asian enrollment quotas at the nation’s most elite universities. Ron Unz, the article’s author, wrote:
Just as their predecessors of the 1920s always denied the existence of ‘Jewish quotas,’ top officials at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the other Ivy League schools today strongly deny the existence of ‘Asian quotas.’ But there exists powerful statistical evidence to the contrary.
But this is not the only myth affecting Asian Americans. A second myth — the “model minority” stereotype — would have you falsely believe that Asian Americans and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (AAs & NHPIs) are “inevitably on their way to becoming predominantly financially well-off professionals who have achieved greater academic and socioeconomic success, encountering few if any problems.”
The source of this gloomy outlook is a new “comprehensive guide for researchers, think tanks, and policymakers” published by the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA).
So, what is one to make of the data widely available elsewhere that indicate that Asian Americans comprise only 4% of the U.S. population but make up 16.5% of the student body at Harvard, 16.9% at Cornell, and 24% at Stanford? Or take the findings of a Pew poll in May, which found that Asian Americans far surpass other ethnic groups and the population as a whole in education and income. Forty-nine percent of AA’s earn a bachelor’s degree or better, compared 28% of the population at large. They even outperform the dreaded white population (those of privilege), of which 31% earn degrees. In median household income AA’s pull down $66,000 annually compared with $49,800 for the population in general and $54,000 for whites. Blacks bring up the rear at $33,300.
Why then does NCAPA claim that AA’s have it so rough? Maybe looking at some of their own internal data will provide answers. Here’s an item from the report:
A survey done in 2005 by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice indicated that only 16 Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIAs) were featured as regulars on prime time television. If the APIA population were properly depicted based on its U.S. population, in 2005 it should have had at least 28 regulars.
OK, that’s quibbling over minutiae. But the report does note some serious-sounding problems. Take this alarming statistic:
An increase in poverty among AAs & NHPIs growing faster than most other ethnic groups from 2007 – 2011, increasing by 38 percent to over 2 million (37 percent increase for AAs and 60 percent increase for NHPIs).
That does sound sobering — or at least it would if it were accurate. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the rate of poverty among Asians rose from 12.2% in 2007 to 13% in 2009 and then actually by four tenths of a percent to 12.6% in 2010. The overall population during the same time period rose to 15.1%. Even whites surpassed the Asian population in poverty rate by 2010.
Notice also the lumping together of AAs and NHPIs. Who are NHPIs anyway? They are actually two groups, according to the NCAPA report.
Native Hawaiians are ‘First Nations’ people that predate the United States and are not immigrants or refugees. As such, they are treated as a political class with the right to self-determination and self-governance.
Pacific Islanders are persons having origins in the original peoples of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Polynesian Islands, the Micronesian Islands, and the Melanesian Islands.
If you skim the statistics through the report, it appears that these groups seem to fare less well in general than Asian Americans. But since one of the stated goals the report spells out for researchers is “disaggregating data to capture disparities across ethnic groups,” it appears that NCAPA is failing to play by its own rules.
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