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Historical Perspectives on Diverse Asian American Communities: Immigration, Incorporation, and Education


by Susan J. Paik, Stacy M. Kula, L. Erika Saito, Zaynah Rahman & Matthew A. Witenstein — 2014

Background/Context: Asian Americans have recently been reported as the largest incoming immigrant population and the fastest growing racial group. Diverse in culture, tradition, language, and history, they have unique immigrant stories both before and after the Immigration Act in 1965. Historians, sociologists, educators, and other experts inform us that immigrant arrival into a new country has long-standing effects for any cultural group, but there is limited research that collectively and systematically examines historical immigrant experiences, particularly for diverse Asian American populations.

Purpose: The purpose of this analytic study is to provide a survey of the historical context experienced by diverse Asian American groups and to link these variations to their current educational outcomes. Based on an adapted model of incorporation, the article analyzes the historical experiences into a taxonomy to understand past and present trends. The research question under consideration is: “How do historical experiences of diverse Asian American immigrant populations link to their current educational outcomes?”

Research Design: The study design employed a historical analysis based on a taxonomy, which helps classify and systematically organize information to understand patterns and themes. To apply the adapted model across the subgroups of East Asian, South Asian, and Southeast Asian major groups, the authors gathered, reviewed, and systematically organized over 100 sources (e.g., literature review, census data, websites, other historical information, etc.).

Findings/Results: The findings illustrate the diversity that exists within and between Asian American groups in terms of their immigration, incorporation, and educational experiences. The modes of incorporation, as well as additional barriers and opportunities, varied across all Asian American communities. There is further need to disaggregate data as some groups experienced more barriers than opportunities and continue to struggle in the United States.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Historical contexts can help inform educators, policy makers, and researchers on ways to support Asian American students and their families. In understanding upward mobility, the nature of co-ethnic communities also played a role for the success of some groups. This study challenges the model minority stereotype by discussing the diversity that exists within and between Asian American groups and reveals how key stakeholders can work together to support positive opportunity structures and partnerships.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 8, 2014, p. 1-45
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17512, Date Accessed: 10/22/2017 5:06:17 PM

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About the Author
  • Susan Paik
    Claremont Graduate University
    E-mail Author
    SUSAN J. PAIK, PhD, is an associate professor at Claremont Graduate University. Her research interests include minority learning and achievement, urban and international studies, educational and human productivity, family-school-community partnerships, research methods, and evaluation. Dr. Paik has several publications on minority and immigrant students and their schooling experiences including Narrowing the Achievement Gap: Strategies for Educating Latino, Black, and Asian Students (Springer, 2007), and “Minority Families and Schooling,” a chapter in the Handbook on Family and Community Engagement supported by the U.S. Department of Education (Academic Development Institute, 2011).
  • Stacy Kula
    Claremont Graduate University
    E-mail Author
    STACY M. KULA, PhD, received her doctorate from Claremont Graduate University. Her research interests include immigrant and minority education, achievement gaps, parent/community/school relationships, and effective teaching and teacher training. As a former teacher, she has worked with diverse immigrant and minority populations. As an adjunct instructor at CGU, she has also prepared teachers to work with diverse populations. Among several working papers, Stacy's dissertation work analyzed achievement factors for working-class second-generation Latino students at elite universities.
  • L. Erika Saito
    Claremont Graduate University
    E-mail Author
    L. ERIKA SAITO is a PhD candidate at Claremont Graduate University. Her research interests include Asian Americans in education, ethnic identity and generational status, K–12 English learner populations, and teaching strategies in English learner classrooms. Erika is also a high school English Literature teacher, serving an international student population as well as an adjunct instructor at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education & Psychology where she teaches courses on human development and teaching English learners.
  • Zaynah Rahman
    Claremont Graduate University
    E-mail Author
    ZAYNAH RAHMAN, PhD, received her doctorate from the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University. Her research focuses on immigrant students, out-of-school factors impacting learning (home environment, parent involvement, after-school activities), college preparation, and international education issues. She recently published a coauthored paper on South Asian American college students in Ethnic and Racial Studies.
  • Matthew Witenstein
    Claremont Graduate University
    E-mail Author
    MATTHEW A. WITENSTEIN is a PhD candidate at Claremont Graduate University. His research focuses on comparative and international education issues including immigrant education, educational development, achieving successful pathways through the educational system, and international student perspectives. He recently coauthored papers on South Asian American college students in Ethnic and Racial Studies and developed a conceptual model to examine gender inequality in Nepali higher education participation in Asian Education and Development Studies.
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