Revisiting the Asian American Second-Generation Advantage

Publication Date:
Mar 2019

Asian Americans comprise 6.4% of the US population, but account for over 20% of the country’s elite Ivy League students. While researchers have studied mechanisms that promote an “Asian second-generation advantage” in education, including immigrant hyper-selectivity, few have examined whether this advantage extends into the labour market. Focusing on the five largest Asian groups – Chinese, Indians, Filipinos, Vietnamese, and Koreans – we revisit the thesis of Asian second-generation advantage. Tran, Lee, and Huang argue that how we define advantage – as outcomes or mobility, in education or in occupations – matters. Their analyses reveal that all five second-generation Asian groups attain exceptional educational outcomes, but vary in intergenerational mobility. Second-generation Vietnamese exhibit the greatest intergenerational gains, followed by second-generation Chinese and Koreans; second-generation Indians and Filipinos experience none. Moreover, this advantage disappears in the labour market for all groups, except for Chinese, revealing the domain-specific nature of the Asian second-generation advantage.


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