Why do Asians excel in the USA?


Why do Asians excel in the United States?

Asians were low-wage farm laborers during the first wave of Asian migration in the 1900s, but they are now the highest contributor to U.S. household income.

In 2021, Asians were ranked the best educated and scored highest on SAT/ACT than white Americans and other ethnicities.

The environment they grew up in, conservative values, submission to authority, school culture, high standards, and deep moral values are why Asians excel in the United States.

Asians score highest on SAT/ACT.


1. Asians see poverty as an inspiration

In the United States, poverty is blamed for poor educational outcomes. But for Asians, poverty is an inspiration to succeed.

About 74% of Asian American adults were immigrants born outside the United States. About 93% describe themselves as hardworking. [Pew]

The push and pull of most Asians who relocated to the U.S. were because of poverty in what mostly were war-torn countries in Asia.

For example, China, South Korea, Singapore, and India were impoverished nations with wars and abuses. That was only about 70 years ago, but today, they’ve become rich nations. [Atlas]

Similarly, America left Vietnam destitute in 1973, but in 2022, the country ranked as one of the largest economies in South East Asia.

Filipinos are the sixth largest immigrant group in the U.S., led by China and India. Mexico came first because of illegal border crossing.

The first Asian wave came after the two world wars. They saw America as a land of opportunity. There was little of it then in their country.

These Asian countries were not necessarily poor, but the environment (an environmental coefficient) they grew up with encouraged them to work hard.

Shaped by genes and environment

Genes and the environment play critical roles in intelligence. Psychologists believe the true heritability quotient for I.Q. is 0.5 percent; half is the environment. [NCBI]

Thus, the “parent’s and environmental coefficient” contribute to the “modifiability of intelligence.” The point is poverty pushed Asians to work harder.

Success through higher education

More than half of Asians ages 25 and older (54%) have a bachelor’s degree or more education, compared with 33% of the U.S. population in the same age range. [Pew]

poverty pushed Asians to work harder.


2. Conservative religious values promote positive well-being

Religiosity and conservativism often go together. Therefore, faith plays a significant role in shaping a child’s morals. Naturally, the more conservative the family, the more they hold on to religious tradition and the discipline that goes with it.

Most have a particular form of religious devotion. Hence, it’s common for Asians to be more prayerful—asking God even for trivial matters, such as homework—to boost grades.

Effects of religion on one’s well-being

Studies suggest that prayer is associated with positive well-being and physical health. Incidentally, “countries with less wealth tend to have higher rates of prayer,” according to Pew research, which doesn’t mean prayers are the cause or effect.

Religious practices such as prayer also contribute to perceptions of meaning in life, which promote psychological well-being. [APA]

Christianity is strong in Asia. In the Philippines, Judeo-Christian prayers are usually recited in classrooms. In contrast, prayers are banned in American public schools.

The Gender Equality Act of 2021 would be considered “immoral” by a typical conservative Asian. But American liberals see it as progressive.

Belongingness: Conservatives are happier according to a study

Pew research shows that conservatives are more family-oriented, which is a critical factor in one’s happiness. Conservative families tend to keep certain values intact, such as respect, independence, and disciplined learning.

A high 86% of “core conservatives” own homes, effectively promoting stronger bonds. In contrast, a “liberal family” allows its members to do things “as they see fit.”

Also, studies suggest conservatives are happier than liberals and liberals less happy with life. Conservatives are also more egalitarian and find more meaning in life than liberals.



3. Submission to authority

Patriarchy and “tiger moms”

Filial piety is strong among Asians. Hindus, Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans worship their ancestors. Hence, extended families in a single household are common, where the patriarch (or matriarch) has authority, and the rest obey.

Study shows that obedience and respect for authority boost academic performance. [JOLE]

Pew Research indicates about 27% of Asian Americans live in multigenerational households, which is higher among other Americans overall (19%). Thus, it translates into having stronger parental authority who enforce academic discipline. Indian Americans are the best educated among different Asian ethnicities.

Tiger parents push hard

Corporal punishment is part of discipline in a typical Asian family. Perhaps one reason why it’s easier for (first and second-generation) Asian Americans to submit to any form of authority.

About 39% of Asian Americans say they have “tiger moms” (or dads) who pressed hard for them to achieve an above-average GPA.

Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Filipino “Tiger parents” usually force their kids to learn violin and piano. These enforce discipline. Also, studies show learning musical instruments promotes brain development.

respect for authority boost academic performance.

4. School culture in Asia impose discipline

Asians are used to studying longer hours

Although it is not ideal, Asian countries have longer school hours than Americans. For example, South Korean middle and high school students stay in school for 8.5 hours.

The Chinese, Vietnamese, and students in the Philippines are in school for 9 hours. Although Japan has only 8 hours of school, students have 2 to 6 hours of homework.

In contrast, American schools give little homework; students stay in school for 7.5 hours. They also have Special Education classes (with IEPs) equivalent to the 2nd to 6th-grade level.

Patrimony is instilled in schools

Asian schools begin with the national anthem, where students gather in open spaces to properly respect the flag. In Thailand, education is highly traditional, with many rules to follow.

However, it also drives students to their limits, which is tragic. In India and China, some students arrive at national tests with IV drips (vitamin injections).

In the United States, government-funded schools no longer imposed students to stand up or recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

School uniforms impose discipline and create a better environment

Private and public schools in Asia wear uniforms. The psychology behind these allows students to follow the rules, respect hierarchies, and complete obedience. Thus creating a culture where students see school as a learning environment.

In 2007, a study by the Schoolwear Association in the U.K., researchers from Oxford Brookes University. A decade after, a similar study showed little had changed. [I.E.]

  • School uniform promotes commonality that improves concentration.
  • It promotes pride, self-confidence through achievement, and a feeling of belonging.
  • A dress code sets boundaries and helps pupils to see school as a working environment.
  • Overwhelming evidence shows students feel happier and more confident in their school color.

5. Asian standard forces a student to be competitive

The pedagogical methodology in Asia has higher standards

Chinese education is stricter and more precise, while Singapore is known for its practical teaching discipline. In 2018, a massive 46% of Singaporean students topped PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) global competence test.

The world’s most difficult tests are in Asia

The world’s most difficult exams are topped by China’s Gaokao, India’s IIT-JEE and UPSC, and South Korea’s Suneung.

Mean score by race on all A.P. Exams (U.S. Advanced Placement) is consistently topped by Asians, followed by whites, according to the 2018 College Board results.

However, recent data by race is no longer publicly available, and the reason is evident given that Asians have consistently been higher in SAT average scores than all other races. [NCES]

Higher standards mean students are forced to study well. As a result, the “high-stakes testing” culture has pushed them to be highly competitive, which is not always good.

The American education system is much easier

The American education pedagogy has innovative rubrics and IEPs (Individualized Education Programs). For public schools to get funding, they’ve become flexible in passing students to maintain an acceptable graduation rate.

In Asia, students are forced to do their best to pass all classes. Otherwise, fail one and repeat an entire semester. In the USA, the high school graduation rate is at an all-time high, partly because students can easily graduate just by completing required submissions—even if the quality is poor.

In 2021, the USA’s National Math and Reading scores hit historic lows. One reason is the ineffective English curriculum authored by Lucy Calkins that the public schools have been using.

Perhaps one reason why 54% of Americans read below the 6th-grade level, according to Gallup polls.

The world’s most difficult exams is topped by Asian countries.

5. Asian moral values influence academic achievements

Personal values play a significant role in learning habits. Particularly in higher education, these values significantly affect a student’s character and ultimately affect their academic achievements. [NCBI]

Unique Asian etiquettes

  • Saying good morning while bowing their heads to teachers is a common trait among Asians
  • Thais, Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese students bow to their teachers (or anyone else) to show respect. The lower the bow, the more respect is conveyed.
  • When speaking to older people, young Koreans refrain from eye contact because it is considered rude behavior.
  • In the Philippines, teachers and those in authority are addressed with “ma’am and sir” followed by their last names. Students do not call teachers by their names.
  • Young people end their sentences with “po” or “opo” to show respect.
  • Asians bend down when walking between two conversing people.
  • There are rules for school attire and hygiene that include trimmed nails and short hair for men.

What is normal for Americans is rude to Asians

Although some schools are more strict, there are teachers who allow students to use their mobile phones during class. Talking to teachers casually is encouraged as well.

It is also common for most Americans to stand on a chair with shoes on. Some even allow students to put their feet on the table or on another chair during class. These are considered horrific behaviors for conservative Asians.

As students are given more rights than they can handle, respect for school authorities continues to drop. As a result, there’s less discipline which translates to a lack of academic discipline.

Students’ respect for teachers dropped, from 79% to 31%: A new Harris Poll finds that fewer adults believe teachers respect parents or students — and that fewer believe parents and students respect teachers. [USA Today]

Recently, some American schools have allowed students to come as they are. Young girls can wear tight-fitting clothes with exposed tummies. Boys can wear hats and hoodies during class. Students can wear blankets like cloaks. Others come in pajamas and sleepers during school days.

Values significantly influence influence academic achievements.


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