When it comes to academic achievement, Asian-Americans outclass every other ethnic group, with more than half over age 25 holding a bachelor’s degree—well above the national average of 28%. To find what gives Asian-Americans a leg up, a team of sociologists scoured two long-term surveys covering more than 5000 U.S. Asian and white students.
After crunching test scores, GPAs, teacher evaluations, and social factors such as immigration status, the team reports a simple explanation online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Asian-American students work harder. The team found that students from all Asian ethnic groups put greater importance on effort than on natural ability. This outlook, the team argues, causes students to respond to challenges by trying harder and has a greater impact on Asian-Americans' academic achievement than does cognitive ability or socioeconomic status.
However, the team says Asian-American students reported lower self-esteem, more conflict with their parents, and less time spent with friends compared with their white peers. The team suspects the high academic expectations or their "outsider" status in American society could be to blame.