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The secret formula to Asian success


Asian baby wearing graduation cap
Just a few months ago, Dr Feng, Senior Vice President of National Tsing Hua University, told TAS students that they have the best of both worlds being able to experience both Chinese and American cultures. Is being Asian American an advantage in the working world?
According to The New York Times, certain ethnic groups in the United States are indeed more successful. Indian Americans earn almost double the median household income and while Asian Americans make up only 5% of the US population, 20% of Harvard acceptances in the Class of 2017 were Asian American.
Asian Americans are not only more successful, they’re also happier. According to the Wall Street Journal, Asian Americans are more satisfied “with their lives, finances and the direction of the country” because “they place more value than other Americans do on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success.”
So what makes Asian Americans so successful? According to The New York Times, the first characteristic is a superiority complex. It’s an attitude of superiority that conceals the second trait, which involves hidden feelings of insecurity. Last is impulse control, or the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward.
Although anyone may have these traits, research shows that certain ethnic groups including Asian Americans and Indian Americans tend to have this “triple package” and gain greater success in the States. Harvard sociologist Vivian S. Louie believes that Chinese parents often set high academic standards because they believe family honor depends on their children’s success.
In a study with thousands of high school students, Asian American students had the lowest self-esteem while earning top grades. Alethea W. (9) agrees, saying that she “feels the need to succeed academically because of [her] parents.”
“I feel like I let them down every time I don’t reach their expectations,” Alethea says. “As time passes, even if I understand that they’re doing this for my own good, there’s a pressure that piles up on my shoulders.”
Furthermore, other ethnic groups may have less impulse control due to cultural ideals. American culture promotes a happy-go-lucky lifestyle, meaning that many teenagers have difficulty delaying pleasure. Books, movies, and TV shows encourage teenagers to “live in the now”, so from an early age it is believed that in order to live a carefree and happy life, an individual doesn’t need strict self-discipline.
Mr Arnold, Upper School history teacher, thinks that the emphasis on family ties and education in Asian cultures also contribute to Asian American success in the United States.
From TAS, many alumni have moved to work in the United States. Successful Asian American TAS alumni include Dennis Locke (’76), who is now the principal of Moss Adams LLP, one of the 15 largest public accounting firms in the United States and Anna Ho (’63), who is now an Immigration Judge for the US Department of Justice.
Do you think Asian American success is just a myth? Or is there something more? Join the online forum at!

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