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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.



INTRODUCTION AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TOPIC


The image of the high-achieving Asian American is ubiquitous in American society; it is seen in both popular media and in much of the scholarly literature (Blair & Qian, 1998; Lee, 1996). However, this popularized image masks the reality of diversity in achievement both within and between Asian ethnic groups (Fong, 2008; Lee, 1996; Ngo & Lee, 2007). The dominant narrative of the “model minority”—the Asian immigrant who achieves success through hard work and perseverance—perpetuates stereotyping and disguises the educational needs of Asian American students (Pang & Cheng, 1998; Yosso & Solórzano, 2005); it is so entrenched that many Asian American groups are not well-supported at local, state, or federal levels in terms of provision of quality schools, educational programs, or funding for services.


Much of the literature on Asian American achievement has mentioned the problem of masked Asian American diversity over the past decades; however, in many cases Asian Americans are still clumped as one group, particularly if they are not the sole focus of the research (Blair & Qian, 1998). Moreover, the literature highlighting Asian American diversity often focuses on one ethnic group rather than broadly addressing the differences and similarities between groups. For example, although Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans have similar East Asian cultural practices, some of their educational and historical experiences differ as illustrated in this article. Little research also links the historical experiences of diverse Asian American groups to current issues in one collective work, an effort that would support a fuller understanding of Asian American diversity.


While there are no mathematical formulas to determine the impact of history on present-day issues, historians tell us that it undoubtedly influences who we are today as individuals, cultures, or generations, and as a nation. History also provides a long-lens perspective and greater insight in every field, including education. In the case of Asian Americans, they have recently been reported as the largest incoming immigrant population and the fastest growing racial group, comprising 6% of the total population at over 18 million in the United States (Hoeffel, Rastogi, Kim, & Shahid, 2012; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a). Diverse in culture, tradition, language, and history, they have unique immigrant stories both before and after the Immigration Act of 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. The reasons for and timing of arrival, societal reception, government support of the receiving country, developed ethnic inroads, and other factors, such as settlement patterns, language ability, class status, education, and occupation are some important considerations in understanding current issues and success outcomes for any cultural group.


PURPOSE AND RESEARCH QUESTION


The purpose of this analytic study is to provide a survey of the historical context of the immigration experiences of all major Asian American ethnic groups and to link these experiences to variations in educational attainment for these groups. Specifically, the article: (a) employs a theoretical lens that adapts Portes and Rumbaut’s modes of incorporation to include barriers and opportunities specific to Asian American communities, (b) presents a brief background and context on diverse Asian American demographic and educational trends, (c) provides the historical context on pre- and post-1965 immigration waves, (d) reviews the literature and systematically analyzes the historical experiences into a taxonomy to understand patterns and trends, (e) compares and contrasts Asian American experiences across major groups and subgroups to understand past and present linkages, and (f) discusses the overall findings and implications in terms of diverse Asian American experiences in immigration, incorporation, and educational outcomes. The research question under consideration is: How do historical experiences of diverse Asian American immigrant populations link to their current educational outcomes?


THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK


The theoretical framework being utilized in this study adapts Portes and Rumbaut’s (1990, 2001) theory on modes of incorporation. Portes and Rumbaut discuss how the immigration experiences of ethnic groups in the United States impact their immigrant group outcomes, including educational outcomes. The Modes of Incorporation includes reception by: (a) government policy, (b) society, and (c) co-ethnic communities. “Individual features” (e.g., prior education; job skills; knowledge of English; wealth; and age) and “family features” (e.g., intact family units headed by two parents vs. single-parent households) are also part of their framework as they impact occupational and educational outcomes of incoming groups.


In the current model, “Other Barriers and Opportunities” (e.g., time of arrival; location and settlement patterns; class status, occupation, educational level; and language abilities) replaced individual and family features (see Figure 1). Some of the original features were included but were altered or defined differently for a more specific approach in understanding Asian immigrant experiences. For example, family features were eliminated because Asian groups in general tend to be headed by two-parent households (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001, p. 89). For individual features, “age” was replaced with a new feature called “time of arrival”; this feature was more relevant for a historical analysis, because many policies specifically targeting Asian immigration were enacted at various points of U.S. history (Portes, Fernández-Kelly, & Haller, 2009; Solórzano & Villalpando, 1998). Some of the key policies and acts are briefly included in this article as they significantly impacted their immigration experiences. “Location and settlement patterns” was also an added feature to the model; settling in metropolitan or inland areas upon arrival either provided more or less access and support from co-ethnic networks. Prior education, occupation/ job skills, English abilities, and class/wealth were consistent features in both models.


As for coding the modes of incorporation and other factors, the adapted model includes factors with revised descriptors and additional coding options (++, +, 0, -, --). Figure 1 below shows the linkage in historical experiences and upward mobility, specifically in education. The factors in Figure 1 are aligned with the taxonomy (Table 3) to provide broad interpretations of the modes of incorporation, other barriers and opportunities, and educational outcomes.


Figure 1. Asian American modes of incorporation: An adapted model

[39_17512.htm_g/00002.jpg]

Note. Adapted from Portes and Rumbaut’s (1990, 2001) theory on Modes of Incorporation, the graphic for the new model (Figure 1) was developed by the authors of this study.


MODES OF INCORPORATION


Portes and Rumbaut (1990, 2001) categorize government policy as “receptive,” “indifferent,” or “hostile” to immigration for ethnic groups. Receptive (+) policy indicates that the ethnic group has been actively encouraged to immigrate through assistance or incentive programs. Many refugees, such as Southeast Asians, fall under this category. Indifferent or neutral (0) policy allows legal immigration but offers no assistance, and hostile (-) government policy blocks immigration. Early Asian immigrants all encountered hostile policies, but most policies became indifferent after 1965.


Societal reception is another contextual factor relating to immigration experiences and subsequent outcomes, especially as it influences the labor market in terms of how many and what types of jobs or other opportunities are available to immigrant populations. Many immigrants encountered varying degrees of prejudice in society, which impacted their employment opportunities significantly. Immigrant experiences upon their entry into the United States can be categorized as: “Prejudiced” (-), “Not prejudiced” (+), or “Neutral” (0). Discrimination can prohibit employment opportunities but can also generate glass ceilings in both the workforce and society for new immigrants.


The nature of the co-ethnic community within each of these subgroups is also seen to affect outcomes by presenting an opportunity for the accumulation of human, social, and cultural capital, as well as providing a buffer for lack of educational or economic opportunities to new immigrants. In the adapted model, co-ethnic community has been categorized as “weak,” “strong,” or “dispersed” to indicate the type of community in terms of concentrated or dispersed laborers, professionals, and entrepreneurs. These categories were developed to characterize the general qualities of co-ethnic communities (pre- and post-1965). All ethnic groups, while diverse in skills, have a level of some dispersion and concentration depending on the generation; in this regard, the categories are oversimplified, but still illustrate the general characteristics of co-ethnic communities and their access to employment and other resources. This term should also not be confused with a sense of community, as Asian Americans in general are collectivist with strong ties to their own ethnic groups. However, Portes and Rumbaut (2001) emphasize that the type of community can determine the extent to which helpful resources and opportunities for new immigrants are provided. “While all communities help their own, they do so within the limits of their own information and resources” (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001, p. 48).


“Strong” (+) co-ethnic communities indicate the existence of areas of high concentration of an ethnic group with a high number of professionals and entrepreneurs who provide newcomers with information and employment opportunities. For example, Chinese and Korean entrepreneurial and professional immigrants have strong co-ethnic communities, which act as central places for commerce, employment, and resources. Co-ethnic communities are often located in metropolitan areas in ethnic enclaves or ethnoburbs. Ethnoburbs are also considered the “new ethnic enclave” (post-1965), where residential and business districts are located in ethnic clusters in the suburbs (Li, 2009).


“Weak” (-) co-ethnic communities also normally involve areas of high concentration of an ethnic group, but these will consist primarily of people who work in less skilled professions, such as manual labor jobs (e.g., Hmong or Cambodian groups). Ethnic groups may also be “dispersed” (0) where skilled professionals in general are not employed in ethnically concentrated areas. Given their ability to assimilate easily, they have less reliance on their co-ethnic communities, weakening the overall resource pool for later newcomers. For example, due to their skills in the medical and science fields, Filipinos and South Asians are professional dispersed groups who are less dependent on their ethnic communities for employment and other resources (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001). Dispersed co-ethnic communities in general have more professional access compared to some Asian groups. In these instances, knowledge and opportunities for upward mobility are not necessarily embedded within the community.


Other Barriers and Opportunities


Portes and Rumbaut (1990, 2001) argue that other features of immigrant groups, such as individual and family features, are also important to understanding outcomes as each group adapts to life in the United States. As described earlier, this section in our framework adapts their theory by using literature specific to Asian American populations to determine the central characteristics necessary to understanding differences between groups. Therefore, though it addresses some similar factors, there are unique changes based on our analysis. These other barriers and opportunities complement the modes of incorporation and provide a more comprehensive picture in understanding Asian immigrant acculturation.


These key factors (all past experiences) are categorized as follows (see Figure 1): (a) Time of arrival (+, -)—Although all immigrants faced discrimination, pre-1965 immigrants had more challenges settling in a new country with limited ethnic inroads. Depending on the time of their arrival, certain policies and acts also served as barriers or opportunities in the host country. Post-1965 immigrants generally had more access and opportunity than earlier immigrants. (b) Location or settlement places (+, -)—The immigrants who settled in metropolitan or coastal areas, such as California or Hawaii, had easier access to co-ethnic networks, while those who were scattered or inland throughout the United States faced more challenges in general. (c) Class status (SES) (-, +, ++), (d) Occupation (-, +, 0), and (e) Education level (--, -, +, ++)—SES, occupation, and educational level are important structural factors that were additional barriers or opportunities for immigrants upon arrival. More education, professional skills, or class status opened more doors of opportunity (professional employment or educational access). Those with less education, job skills, or lower class status were generally relegated to working-class positions with fewer opportunities. (f) Language ability (+, -)—The ability to speak English helped groups such as Filipinos and South Asians tremendously to acculturate more easily into a new country. Those with less English fluency had limited opportunities in mainstream America.


Positive and Negative Factors


Receptive policy, non-prejudiced society, and the presence of strong co-ethnic communities are all contributors to positive experiences and outcomes for immigrant groups; they all eventually impact employment and educational opportunities as well as other pivotal factors of integration into a new society (Portes & Rumbaut, 1990, 2001). Additional barriers and opportunities should also be considered as they can help negotiate or complicate the immigrant experience. Where there is a mix of positive and negative factors, outcomes are less certain, but any positive factor can at least somewhat mitigate the negative impacts of the other elements of the model. For example, despite the lack of government policy or societal reception, the existence of co-ethnic in-roads could provide supportive buffers into a new country where human, social, and cultural capital are accessible. In addition, post-1965 arrival, settling in metropolitan or coastal areas, middle- and upper-class status, professional skills, education, and the ability to speak English were all generally “positive” factors that made a difference for immigrant acculturation. The historical experiences include a number of positive, negative, and other factors for each of the Asian American groups.


Educational Outcomes


The adapted model on the modes of incorporation provides a broad interpretation for the variation in educational outcomes for diverse Asian American groups. Educational outcomes are undoubtedly linked directly and indirectly to multiple factors, where context and the role of opportunity are significant factors. Historical, social, and political contexts can be informative in understanding immigrant experiences and their access to human, social, and cultural capital. Figure 1 shows how these multiple factors are linked with upward mobility mainly through an educational lens.


BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT ON DIVERSE ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITIES


The Asian American groups were categorized under four general areas: East Asians, South Asians, Southeast Asians, and Filipinos. Although Filipinos fall under the general category of Southeast Asians, they have been organized as a separate section given their unique experiences compared to Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian, and Vietnamese populations. It is important to note while great diversity exists in each of these groups, only major subgroups were included given the dearth of literature. Some of the included groups also had limited research. For example, while the larger subgroups were included under South Asians, research was still limited on Bangladeshi, Pakistani, or Sri Lankan groups. Pacific Islanders (multiple ethnic groups within Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian islands) were also excluded given similar reasons. Because it was impossible to provide in-depth experiences and characteristics for all groups, the paper provides an overview and survey of the major Asian American groups and their historical experiences.


CURRENT U.S. DEMOGRAPHICS AND SETTLEMENT PATTERNS


Table 1. Asian American 2010 Demographic Data

  

Population

% of AA population*

Most populous states

East Asian

Chinese

4,010,114

23.2%

CA, NY, HI, TX, NJ

Korean

1,706,822

9.9%

CA, NY, NJ, TX, VA

Japanese

1,304,286

7.5%

CA, HI, WA, NY, TX

South Asian

Indian

3,183,063

18.4%

CA, NY, NJ, TX, IL

Pakistani

409,163

2.4%

NY, TX, CA, IL, NJ, VI

Bangladeshi

147,300

0.85%

NY, CA, TX, MI, NJ

Sri Lankan

45,381

0.26%

CA, NY, TX, MD, NJ

Southeast Asian

Vietnamese

1,737,433

10.0%

CA, TX, WA, FL, VA

Cambodian

276,667

1.6%

CA, MA, WA, TX, PA

Hmong

260,073

1.5%

CA, MN, WI

Laotian

232,130

1.3%

CA, TX, MN, WA

 

Filipino

3,416,840

19.7%

CA, HI, IL, TX, WA

Note. *All demographic data is based on 2010 Census data and includes those who identified themselves as part of each ethnic group, both alone and in combination with other ethnicities.


East Asians


East Asia includes the countries of Japan, Korea, the People’s Republic of China, Mongolia, Macau, Hong Kong, and the Republic of China (Taiwan), all of which share historical ties with the Chinese script (United Nations, 2011). In the United States, Chinese Americans (including those from the Chinese diaspora, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan), Korean Americans, and Japanese Americans are considered the main East Asian groups (Jeong & You, 2008; Takaki, 1998).


East Asian Americans comprise about 40% of the Asian American population. According to the 2010 Census Data, there are approximately 4 million Chinese Americans currently living in the United States, representing just over 23% of the Asian American population, while Korean Americans total 1.7 million (Shinagawa & Kim, 2008; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a). Approximately 1.3 million people identify as Japanese Americans; of these, a large majority is U.S. born and over one third are of mixed descent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a).


East Asian Americans have mostly settled along metropolitan coastal areas in the United States. The majority of Chinese Americans reside in California, New York, and Hawaii, and Korean Americans are concentrated in Southern California, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia (Yu, 2003). Japanese Americans tend to live in metropolitan areas of California, Hawaii, Washington, New York, and Texas (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a; Yu, 2003).


South Asians


South Asian Americans are primarily people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives (Sandhu & Madathil, 2008). Of all Asian American groups, South Asians had the highest rate of growth over the past decade, and over three quarters of the population are foreign born (Chhaya Community Development Corporation, 2012; Oh, 2005). With a population of just over 3.18 million, Asian Indians are the third-largest Asian American group in the United States behind Chinese and Filipino Americans; however, if mixed-ethnicity individuals are not counted, Asian Indians surpass Filipino Americans becoming second largest (Hoeffel et al., 2012; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a). Residents from countries other than India make up only 16% of the South Asian population. These include Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Sri Lankan Americans who number over 409,000, 147,000 and 45,000, respectively (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a).


All four groups share their largest communities in California, New York, New Jersey, and Texas; Indians and Pakistanis are also populous in Illinois, Bangladeshis in Michigan, and Sri Lankans in Maryland (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a).


Southeast Asians


Southeast Asian countries include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Southeast Asian Americans come primarily from the countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos (Rumbaut, 2000). The U.S. Census recognizes four major ethnic groups originating from these countries: Vietnamese, Cambodian (or Khmer), Laotian, and Hmong. These monikers are somewhat misleading, as several distinct groups, including ethnic Lao, Mien, Khmer Loeu, Montagnards, and Chinese peoples are included under these umbrella terms (Hmong Studies Internet Resource Center, 2011).


According to the 2010 U.S. Census, approximately 2.5 million Southeast Asian Americans live in the United States. Of these, more than two thirds (about 1.7 million) are Vietnamese Americans. Other Southeast Asian groups are much smaller; Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotian Americans have respective populations of over 276,000, 260,000, and 232,000, making their combined total less than half that of the Vietnamese group (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a).


More Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotian Americans live in California than any other state, with about a third of their populations housed there. For Vietnamese Americans, southern states (particularly Texas) predominate outside of California, while Cambodian Americans are located in eastern states, with some communities in Texas and Washington (Bankston, 2000a; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a). Hmong Americans are concentrated in Minnesota and Wisconsin; by contrast, Laotian Americans are the most evenly distributed group but have sizable communities in Texas, Minnesota, and Washington (Bankston, 2000b).


Filipinos


The 2010 Census counted the Filipino American population at over 3.4 million, an increase of 44% since the 2000 Census (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a). Filipino Americans represent the second-largest Asian American group, though as noted above, when only single-ethnicity individuals are considered, Filipinos are the third largest population. California has by far the largest number of Filipino Americans, at nearly 1.5 million; however, eight other states—Hawaii, Illinois, Texas, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, and Florida—host at least 100,000 members (National Federation of Filipino American Associations, 2011; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a). Several states have seen large gains in Filipino American populations between 2000 and 2010; Nevada’s 142% increase was the greatest (National Federation of Filipino American Associations, 2011).


CURRENT EDUCATIONAL TRENDS


Table 2. Asian American Educational Outcomes: Highest Academic Attainment by Percentage of Population Aged 25 and Over

 

Less than HS diploma

HS graduate or G.E.D.

Some college or A.A.

College degree

Graduate degree

East Asian

Chinese

17.9

15.7

15.7

25.3

25.3

Korean

7.7

18.6

21.5

34.2

18.0

Japanese

5.0

19.6

29.4

30.8

15.2

South Asian

Indian

9.5

9.9

11.7

31.4

37.5

Pakistani

13.4

17.4

16.4

29.8

23.0

Bangladeshi

16.9

17.2

18.1

25.5

22.2

Sri Lankan*

7.6

14.1

20.9

29.0

28.4

Southeast Asian

Vietnamese

30.2

21.5

22.8

18.6

6.9

Cambodian

33.3

27.3

23.4

11.9

4.2

Hmong

35.4

22.5

27.3

11.1

3.7

Laotian

32.5

29.2

25.1

10.4

2.8

 

Filipino

7.6

15.8

30.3

37.9

8.5

Note. *Sri Lankan population percentages are based on 2010 ACS three-year estimates, whereas all other ethnic group percentages are based on one-year estimates


East Asians


Overall, East Asian Americans show high rates of academic achievement; yet differences exist between and within ethnic groups. For example, Chinese Americans show differing rates based on generation as well as country of origin. Those from the Chinese diaspora and Taiwan were predominately college educated, while those from Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau arrived with both high and low levels of education; these differences have impacted their current educational trends. Successive generations of Chinese Americans have also shown higher rates of college attainment (Shinagawa & Kim, 2008). The academic attainment of Korean Americans is second only to that of South Asians, with 52.2% earning a bachelor’s degree or higher (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a). In contrast, Japanese Americans have lower attainment of a college degree or higher than any of the six largest Asian ethnic groups with the exception of Vietnamese Americans (Shinagawa, Wang, Lee, & Chen, 2011). Unlike Chinese Americans, generational status does not positively impact the educational attainment of Japanese Americans, whose attainment peaks with the 1.5 generation (Shinagawa et al., 2011).


South Asians


Obtaining high achievement and attainment in K–12, college, and post-college, South Asian Americans generally perform well in schools (Blair & Qian, 1998; Farver, Xu, Bhadha, Narang, & Lieber, 2007; Kao, 1995; U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2007). Regarding academic attainment levels, all four South Asian groups have higher graduate degree attainment than Whites, Asians, and the general population; Indians lead with 37.5% earning graduate degrees (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a). However, qualitative studies indicate the children of a recent subgroup of South Asian immigrants arriving since the mid-1980s face difficulty in adjustment to school and performance in school (Bhattacharya & Schoppelrey, 2004; National Asian Pacific American Comunity Development Data Center, 2005; Verma, 2008; Wright, 2007). This trend has not yet affected the achievement statistics for South Asians overall, but there is a possibility of lowered achievement levels in the future.


Southeast Asians


Southeast Asian groups do not achieve academically at the same levels as many other Asian American groups. Vietnamese American achievement in terms of grades is higher than other Southeast Asian American groups but does not match East or South Asian student GPA scores (Rumbaut, 2008). Attainment suffers as well: for Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotian Americans ages 25 and older; between 32.5% and 35.4% fail to graduate high school (Niedzwiecki & Duong, 2009; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a). For Vietnamese Americans this drops to 30.2% but remains over two times higher than the overall Asian American rate of 14.2%. In terms of high academic attainment, while 19.8% of all Asian Americans aged 25 and over achieve graduate or professional degrees, only 6.9% of the Vietnamese and between 2.8% and 4.2% of the Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotian American populations have done so (Niedzwiecki & Duong, 2009; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a). These numbers are higher than in past decades, indicating an upward trend (Kibria, 1990; Li, 1998).


Filipinos


Current achievement levels are generally high but also somewhat mixed. Among others, one K–12 study found high achievement in six communities; however, there were four underachieving communities in California and Hawaii—states with the largest and oldest Filipino communities (Ogilvie, 2008). Bachelor’s degree attainment is much higher than the U.S. average and approximates the Asian American average (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a). However, some studies show the second generation’s achievement appears to be significantly lower than that of the first generation (Zhou & Xiong, 2005). Females have higher bachelor degree attainment than males, in contrast to most Asian American groups (Bankston, 2006).


HISTORICAL ANALYSIS AND REVIEW OF LITERATURE: A TAXONOMY APPROACH


Based on the theoretical framework, the authors developed a taxonomy (Table 3) to help characterize the historical experiences for each group. A taxonomy helps classify and systematically organize information to understand patterns and themes. In order to describe the experiences of each group, the authors developed categories for each factor. For each column, positive, negative, or other factors were represented by codes (+ +, +, 0, -, - -). The authors gathered, reviewed, and systematically organized over 100 sources (e.g., literature review, census data, websites, other historical information, etc.) to determine the best code for each group. While codes were selected based on supporting references and discussion on each of the factors, they represent general categories that cannot capture the diversity of experiences in each group. For each column, specific findings and supporting references can be found in each of the respective sections in this article.  


In Table 3, the information is organized by major groups and subgroups (rows) and key factors (columns). For Modes of Incorporation, each of the groups’ experiences are categorized and coded under three columns: Government Policy (receptive, indifferent, hostile), Societal Reception (prejudiced, neutral, nonprejudiced), and Co-ethnic Community (weak, strong, dispersed).


For Other Barriers and Opportunities, there are six columns: Time of Arrival (pre- or post-1965), Location (past settlement places), Class Status (lower, middle, upper), Occupation (working or professional jobs), Education Level (no education, some education, college education, or graduate education), and English Language Ability (yes or no), as well as any other languages. Educational Outcomes (the main outcome) were also included in the table to assess the differences in educational attainment across groups. These factors in Table 3 will be described in the following sections.


HISTORICAL CONTEXT: PRE- AND POST-1965 IMMIGRATION WAVES


Immigrants from Asian nations have been a part of the American demographic landscape since the mid-1800s. During the early years of Asian immigration, government policy, driven by anti-Asian highly racist sentiment, increasingly blocked immigration and naturalization for these groups. However, policy radically altered in 1965 with the advent of the Immigrant Act and Nationality Act (also known as the Hart-Cellar Act), initiating a fundamental shift in the immigration patterns of Asian American groups. For this reason, in this section the histories recounted of various Asian American immigration experiences describe both pre- and post-1965 eras (see Time of Arrival in Table 3), with the exception of Southeast Asian immigrants, who did not arrive in significant numbers until the Vietnam conflict in the post-1965 era.


EAST ASIANS


The Chinese were the first Asian group to enter America via California in 1849 at the beginning of the Gold Rush era (Takaki, 1998). During this period there were several attempts to control and limit the Chinese population, resulting in the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 that barred entrance to the Chinese. Although the Chinese immigrants lived in ethnic enclaves, they were largely a bachelor society and their population experienced little growth in the early years (Zhou & Gatewood, 2007). By 1943, the Chinese Exclusion Act was overturned by the Magnuson Act; this act not only provided the current Chinese population eligibility for citizenship but it also allowed immigration from China with a quota of 105.


Japanese immigrants arrived in the late 1800s as laborers settling primarily in Hawaii and California (Kitano, 1993). Their numbers grew rapidly; the Japanese population in California doubled to almost 100,000 between 1910 and 1920, making it the state’s largest racial minority group (Kurashige, 2002). This trend continued until the Immigrant Act of 1924 barred the entry of all Asian groups (Kitano, 1993). Without any influx of newcomers, the Japanese American population quickly became majority American born. By the advent of World War II, most Japanese Americans were at least second-generation citizens. However, in 1942, the authorization of Executive Order 9066 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt required the mass internment of over 100,000 Japanese Americans along the West Coast. This turning point not only questioned Japanese Americans of their loyalty to the United States but also forced the group to assimilate quickly into American culture, impacting their identity, community, and relations within and across ethnic groups. After the war, Japanese immigration largely stagnated due to the rise of Japan’s industrial economy.


Like the Japanese, many Koreans were initially recruited and brought to Hawaii as plantation laborers. However, Korean immigration came to a halt when Korea became Japan’s protectorate in 1905 (Fong, 2008). On the mainland, very few Korean immigrants arrived between 1905 and 1940; those that did lived in California as laborers or farmers, “picture brides,” and students (Lai & Arguelles, 2004). American intervention in the Korean War brought about the second Korean wave between 1951 and 1964; this group included about 6,500 Korean brides, 5,000 arranged adoptions of war orphans, and roughly 2,500 sponsored students (Fong, 2008; Lai & Arguelles, 2004).


After the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965 opened the doors to immigration, more Chinese and Korean immigrants came for family reunification; in addition, students-turned-professionals were able to apply for permanent residence visas in the United States under the provisions of the Act (Park & Park, 2005). The Chinese and Korean American populations continued to grow with the arrival of 95,000 immigrants from China and 79,000 from Korea between 1965 and 1981, while Japanese American immigration totaled 18,000 during the same years (Bankston & Zhou, 1996). This trend continued through the next two decades: between 1980 and 2000, the populations of Chinese and Korean American communities grew by 300%, while the Japanese American population growth rate was only about half that number (J. Kim, Yuh, E. Kim, & Yu, 2003; Zhou & Gatewood, 2007).


SOUTH ASIANS


South Asian immigration to the United States occurred in three major waves. The earliest immigrants were chiefly illiterate male Sikh and Muslim peasants from the Punjab province in India. They arrived between 1897 and 1924 and settled in rural California to work on farms. These immigrants were heavily discriminated against, forbidden to own land, gain citizenship rights, or bring their family members to the United States. Some of the Indian men eventually married local Mexican women and created a new Punjabi-Mexican ethnic community (Leonard, 1997; Purkayastha, 2005).


The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 marked the beginning of the second wave of immigration (Sandhu & Madathil, 2008). These post-1965 immigrants came from all over India and Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal and settled in suburban America. The new immigration laws gave preference to highly skilled professionals such as scientists, doctors, and engineers and their families; consequently, many post-1965 immigrants were college-educated, urban, middle-class professionals or students seeking advanced university training (Bhattacharya & Schoppelrey, 2004; Purkayastha, 2005; Saran, 2007).


Since the mid-1980s, a third wave of immigration has brought a demographic shift, increasing polarization within the South Asian immigrant community. While skilled professionals and students continued to arrive, a subgroup of immigrants who were less educated and less fluent in English than their predecessors came to the United States through diversity visas and family reunification criteria. Many had foreign post-secondary credentials that were unaccepted in the United States. These individuals worked mostly blue-collar jobs as taxi drivers, store clerks, or small motel operators or owned small businesses (Bhattacharya & Schoppelrey, 2004; Verma, 2008). More Bangladeshis and Pakistanis with lower socioeconomic status than their Indian counterparts were part of this third wave of immigration (National Asian Pacific American Comunity Development Data Center, 2005). Irrespective of their economic and educational status, South Asians chose to come to the United States for better educational and professional opportunities (Bhattacharya & Schoppelrey, 2004; Saran, 2007).


SOUTHEAST ASIANS


Most first generation Southeast Asian immigrants arrived between 1975 and 1995 as political or economic refugees following the events of the Vietnam War (Takaki, 1998; Zhou & Gatewood, 2007). The first wave of refugee immigration in 1975 consisted of mostly urban Vietnamese, who were disproportionately educated and affluent: Fully 20% of this group had college degrees and 38% more were high school graduates, compared to less than 1% and 16%, respectively, in Vietnam as a whole (Kelly, 1986). Also included were refugees from Laos—particularly Hmong soldiers who had assisted the CIA in the Laotian highlands. Hmong refugees were both poor and uneducated, having lived in a society largely cut off from the modern world (Rumbaut, 2000; Trueba, Jacobs, & Kirton, 1990).


For most Vietnamese refugees, coming to the United States meant significant downward social mobility. The lack of English language knowledge, as well as their arrival during a protracted recession, made finding jobs very difficult at first (Bach & Carroll-Seguin, 1986). Nevertheless, within a very short time these refugees created co-ethnic communities with entrepreneurial business backing (Bach & Carroll-Seguin, 1986). Their children did relatively well in school, benefiting from their parents’ educational backgrounds initially and, later, from the social and economic buffers afforded by movement into emerging ethnic enclaves (Kelly, 1986; R. Y. Kim, 2002).


Second-wave immigrants from Vietnam and Laos (both Hmong and Laotian) began arriving in the later 1970s and into the 1980s, via camps located predominately in Thailand. These refugees fled persecution or economic disaster and tended to come from rural areas, to have experienced personal trauma and family separation during both the war and their years in the camps, and to be relatively uneducated and unskilled (Rumbaut, 2000). These barriers to prosperity were much more difficult to overcome than those experienced by the first wave, particularly for non-Vietnamese groups who did not benefit from the co-ethnic community established by early Vietnamese refugees (R. Y. Kim, 2002).


Cambodian arrival in the United States came slightly later than the Vietnamese, Hmong, and Laotian groups (Rumbaut, 2000; Takaki, 1998). These refugees were survivors of genocidal rule by the Khmer Rouge, in which about one fourth of the population died from torture, punishment, starvation, sickness, or exhaustion (R. Y. Kim, 2002). Because individuals with wealth, education, or leadership positions were targeted for annihilation during Khmer Rouge rule, incoming Cambodian refugees were uneducated and unskilled; in addition, these refugees often suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression alongside other barriers shared by Southeast Asian groups such as language barriers and unfavorable social reception (Carlson & Rosser-Hogan, 1991; Rumbaut, 2000).


FILIPINOS


The colonial past from both Spain (1565–1898) and the United States (1898–1946) make Filipinos unique compared to other Asian American groups in general. While their colonization was oppressive, it provided them with enormous preparation for U.S. immigration. The educational system was Americanized, and Filipinos learned English and American culture, which initially made immigration more accessible (David, 2010). The first sizeable wave of immigrants arrived in Hawaii and California as laborers in the early 1900s; by 1930, the U.S. population grew to over 45,000 (Bankston, 2006; Takaki, 1998). However, the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 granted the Philippines independence from the United States, restricting Filipino immigration to just 50 people per year (Takaki, 1998).


The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 provided more opportunities for not only family reunification but for the arrival of professionals. Post-1965 immigrants were thus predominately college educated, proficient in English, and middle class (Wolf, 1997). A large immigration flow continues to come to the United States, as over one fourth of all Filipino immigrants have arrived since 2000 (Terrazas & Batalova, 2010).


Table 3. Taxonomy1 of AA Historical Experiences: Modes of Incorporation* and Other Barriers and Opportunities**

Asian American

Groups

Time of Arrival**


Pre-1965 (-)

Post-1965 (+)

Government Policy2 *


Hostile (-)

Receptive (+)

Indifferent/

Neutral (0)

Societal Reception*


Prejudiced (-)

Nonprejud (+)

Neutral (0)

Co-ethnic3 Community*


Weak (-)

Strong (+)

Dispersed (0)

Location4 **


Inland/ Scattered (-)

Metro/Coastal area (+)

Class Status**


Lower (-)

Middle (+)

Upper (++)

Occupation**


Working (-)

Professional (+)

Other (0)

(students, brides, and/or adoptees)

Education Level**


No Ed (- -)

Some Ed (-)

College (+)

Graduate (++)

English Lang.**


Yes (+)

No (-)

Current

Educational Outcomes5


Low (-)

High (+)

Mixed (+/ -)

EAST

          

Chinese

Pre: 1st, 2nd wave

     - , -

Post:  +

Pre:  - , 0

Post:  0

Pre:   - , -

Post:  -

Pre:  - , +

Post: +

Pre:   +

Post:  +

Pre:  - , - /+

Post: + /++

Pre:   - , - /+/ 0

Post:  + / 0

Pre: - -, - /+ /++

Post: - /+/ ++

Pre: -

Post: -

+

Japanese

Pre:   -

Post6 : NA

Pre:   -

Post:  0 / +

Pre:   -

Post:  -

Pre:   +

Post:  0

Pre:   +

Post:  +

Pre:  -

Post: + /++

Pre:   -

Post:  - / +

Pre:  - - / -/ +

Post:  - /+ / ++

Pre: -

Post7: +/-

+

Korean

Pre: 1st, 2nd wave

     - , -

Post:  +

Pre:  - , +

Post:  0

Pre:   - , -

Post:  -

Pre:   - , +

Post:  +

Pre:   +

Post:  +

Pre:  - , - /+

Post: +/ ++

Pre:   - , 0

Post:  - / +

Pre: - - , - - /-/+

Post:  - / +/ ++

Pre: -

Post: -

+

SOUTH8

          
 

Pre:   -

Post:  +

Pre:   - / 0

Post:  0

subgrp: 0

Pre:   -

Post:  0

subgrp: -

Pre:   +

Post:  0

subgrp: - / +

Pre:   +

Post:  +

Pre:   -

Post:  ++

subgrp: -

Pre:   -

Post:  +

subgrp: -

Pre:  - -

Post: + / ++

subgrp: - /+

Pre:  -

Post: +

subgrp: -


+

S. EAST

          

Hmong

Post:  +

Post:  +

Post:  -

Post:  -

Post:  +/ -

Post:  -

Post:  -

Post: - - / -

Post: -

-

Cambodian

Post:  +

Post:  +

Post:  -

Post:  -

Post:  +/ -

Post:  -

Post:  -

Post:  - - / -

Post: -

-

Vietnamese

Post:  +

Post:  +

Post:  -

1975:  -

Later: +

Post:  +/ -

Post:  -

Post:  -

1975: - / +/ ++

Later: - - / -

Post: -

+ / -

Laotian

Post:  +

Post:  +

Post:  -

Post:  -

Post:  +/ -

Post:  -

Post:  -

Post:  - - / -

Post: -

-

FILIPINO

          
 

Pre:   -

Post:  +

Pre:   0 / -

Post:  + / 0

Pre:   -

Post:  0

Pre:  +

Post:  0

Pre:   +

Post:  +

Pre:  -

Post: +/++

Pre:   - / +

Post:  +

Pre:  - - /+

Post: +/ ++

Pre: +

Post: +

+ / -

Notes.

1. All responses were based on a review of literature. While diverse experiences existed, codes represent the general experiences for each group, Please refer to the text for specific findings and supporting references.

2. Gov. policy was mostly hostile (-) in pre-1965, and mostly neutral (0) and/or receptive (+) to varying degrees for post-1965 groups. While government support was provided in a few cases (i.e., Filipino nurses or military servicemen, Korean adoptees, etc), resettlement assistance was provided mostly for Southeast Asian groups.

3. Co-ethnic communities (CC) refer to the community in terms of employment & resources available to ethnic groups. “Weak CC”—smaller concentrated population, mainly laborers, & limited resources. “Strong CC”—larger concentrated population that also includes professionals, entrepreneurs, and abundant resources. “Dispersed CC”—more mainstreamed professionals & other trades (not ethnically concentrated or reliant).

4. The location (settlement places) initially drew Asian Americans to similar ethnically populated areas. Generally, most AA groups continued to follow similar settlement patterns but were more dispersed throughout the United States over time. For current settlement patterns and trends, please refer to Table 1.

5. Specific info on current educational outcomes (achievement, attainment) can be found in Table 2. South Asians, Koreans, and Chinese followed by the Japanese are the highest achieving AA groups in the United States.

6. While there were some new immigrants, in general Japanese immigration stopped after WWII (only one wave). In this row, post-1965 experiences characterize Japanese Americans (JA). For example, gov. policy was neutral (0) to supportive (+) to help repay for their internment experiences. Upward mobility (i.e., education, occupation, income, etc) also varied across the JA group over generations.

7. Given their longevity in the U.S., post-1965 JA had also become fluent English speakers in the United States. However, any new immigrants in general were not as proficient with English.

8. Although there are several groups under South Asians, they were organized under one general category in this table given the dearth of literature. Please refer to the text.


MODES OF INCORPORATION, BARRIERS, AND OPPORTUNITIES


Government policy, societal reception, and co-ethnic communities played a major role for diverse Asian American groups. In addition, settlement places, class status, occupation, education level, and English fluency helped or hindered immigrant acculturation (see Table 3).


GOVERNMENT POLICY


East Asians


Initially, government policy was hostile toward East Asian groups. Numerous laws restricting East Asian immigration were passed immediately after their arrival in the mid to late 1800s, followed by laws prohibiting their citizenship, land ownership, and ability to thrive. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act was followed by a 10-year extension in 1892 and an indefinite extension in 1902. The Gentleman’s Agreement of 1908, Immigration Act of 1917, and the Immigration Act of 1924 continued to restrict Chinese, Japanese, and Korean immigrants from entering the country (Fong, 2008; J. Kim et al., 2003; Takaki, 1998; Tamura, 2003). By 1905 Korean immigration into the United States was also prohibited by the Japanese, who had complete control over Korea and limited their accessibility to the United States (Takaki, 1998).


A more favorable change for the second wave resulted in a neutral government policy towards East Asians. Following WWII, the 1945 War Brides Act allowed Asian wives of GIs into the United States (Zhou & Gatewood, 2007). Numerous legislative changes also occurred, such as the 1943 Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act, 1948 Displaced Persons Act, 1952 Walter-McCarren Act, 1953 Refugee Relief Act, 1957 Chinese Confession Program, and 1962 Presidential Directive granting permanent resident status, visas, and citizenship to Asian Americans who were previously denied such rights. From 1945–1964, these acts indirectly supported and propelled East Asian immigration into the United States, particularly for Chinese and Korean immigrants. After the Korean War, government policies were more receptive towards war brides and students, but especially Korean adoptees who needed support through various agencies (Choy, 2009; Hübinette, 2005; Oh, 2005).


After 1965, U.S. government policies allowed new immigrants into the United States. Changes occurred with the 1965 Hart-Cellar Act, which abolished the national origins quota and gave preference to immigrants in the medical and engineering fields. In addition, the political climate and economic status in China and Korea further increased immigration from these two nations (Jeong & You, 2008). Later legislation repealed anti-miscegenation laws, provided for bilingual education, further increased the number of Asians allowed into the country, and gave further preference to certain professional groups (Fong, 2008). Following the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, President George Bush signed Executive Order 12711 that provided amnesty to Chinese nationals residing in the United States during that time. For those eligible, the Chinese Student Protection Act in 1992 allowed Chinese students, visiting scholars, and other nationals to apply for permanent U.S. resident status between 1993–1994 (S. 1216, 1991). For the Japanese population, new immigrants were rare; it did not grow as the Chinese and Korean populations did. However, government policies were more receptive during that time for the Japanese in the United States. By 1964, the government authorized redress of about $38 million to 26,560 Japanese American claimants, and the 1988 Civil Liberties Act provided an additional $20,000 to Japanese Americans interned during WWII along with their heirs.


South Asians


Government policy before the mid-1900s was hostile to South Asian immigrants. Federal and state laws restricted these immigrants from land ownership, citizenship rights, bringing their family members, and marrying local White women (Leonard, 1997; Verma, 2008). U.S. immigration laws of 1917 and 1924 had barred entry to all Asian immigrants, but in 1946 South Asians saw a small favorable change in U.S. government policy (Ingram, 2007). The Luce-Cellar Act (a neutral policy) allowed 200 South Asian immigrants into the United States annually and allowed them to naturalize. Upon becoming citizens, they could bring relatives to the United States.


In 1965, the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act reversed decades of discrimination and legalized immigration to South Asians on the basis of preferred skills or family reunification (Purkayastha, 2005). Education and work opportunities were readily available, particularly in professional categories such as engineering, medicine, and science, attracting thousands of highly educated and skilled South Asians to the United States.


The subgroup of lower skilled South Asian immigrants arriving since the 1980s experience difficulty in the United States. (Bhattacharya & Schoppelrey, 2004; Chhaya Community Development Corporation, 2012). Although government policies have continued to allow legal immigration, there is very little support for these groups. Competition for limited jobs, the rejection and low acceptance of foreign degrees and qualifications, and the growth in anti-immigrant attitudes towards the new immigrants hinders their path to upward mobility. Since the 9/11 event in 2001, U.S. immigration scrutiny has fallen heavily on South Asians entering and living in the United States (Verma, 2008), demonstrating perhaps the most recent form of government unfriendliness towards an Asian group.


Southeast Asians


Government policy during and after the Vietnam War was receptive to Southeast Asian immigration to the United States. The Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975 granted these victims of the conflict special legal status as refugees and adopted measures to ease their transition to the United States (Hing, 1997). Relocation agencies recruited “sponsors”—churches, American families, former refugees, and businesses—who were given a stipend to help refugees with living expenses and job placement (Kelly, 1986). This Act was extended to Laotians in 1976, paving the way for larger waves of Hmong and Laotian refugee arrivals in the years to follow. The Refugee Act of 1980 established policy for continued admission and settlement of refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia throughout the United States; additionally, the Orderly Departure Program was created to assist Vietnamese relatives of refugees in leaving Vietnam or the camps in which they were located, and settling them in areas across the United States (Hidalgo & Bankston, 2008; Hing, 1997). Another wave of immigrants arrived following passage of the 1987 Amerasian Homecoming Act, which specifically allowed Vietnamese children of American soldiers from the war to enter the United States along with their immediate families. An estimated 83,000 immigrants had arrived in the United States by 1993 under this provision (Hidalgo & Bankston, 2008).


Scholars note that government assistance for refugees did not last as long as needed, that critical help in translation services and job training was lacking, and that sponsor duties were often cut short (Kelly, 1986; Trueba et al., 1990). Additionally, many refugees languished in the squalid atmosphere of refugee camps in Southeast Asian nations for years, increasing their trauma upon arrival (Mollica, Cui, McInnes, & Massagli, 2002). Despite these circumstances, the fact remains that refugee immigration was not only state sponsored but accompanied by unprecedented assistance programs intended to assist these newcomers with successful acculturation in the United States (Portes & Rumbaut, 1990; Portes & Zhou, 1993; Rumbaut, 2008).


Filipinos


Filipinos have had varying degrees of government support from the United States in the past century. Filipinos were initially able to immigrate to the United States freely and were considered American “nationals,” although without rights to own property, to franchise, or marry someone of their choosing (Matsuoka & Ryujin, 1991). However, the 1934 Tydings-McDuffie Act, a hostile policy, created a major immigration barrier for Filipino Americans. Historians argue the Act was ratified in order to exclude Filipinos from U.S. citizenship (Takaki, 1998). This Act recategorized Filipinos as Asian “aliens,” ignoring their colonial ties (Buenavista, Jayakumar, & Misa-Escalante, 2009). A small number (100) of Filipinos were allowed to immigrate to the United States with the advent of the Luce-Celler Act in 1946. This Act coincided with the same year the Philippines were given their independence; it also offered naturalization to Filipino Americans (Takaki, 1998). Thousands of Filipinos were still recruited post-World War II into the Navy, which provided them a pathway to the United States (Takaki, 1998).


In the post-1965 era, government policy has been mostly neutral, yet receptive to skilled professions (i.e., nurses, military servicemen, etc.) from the Philippines (Bankston & Zhou, 1995). Active recruitment with some government assistance, especially for military servicemen, occurred both pre- and post-1965, but an influx of preferred professions came after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. While Filipinos have received some government assistance for immigration reasons, they have received very little support and recognition in general of their colonial history (as in their exclusion from Affirmative Action eligibility in California in the 1980s) (Buenavista et al., 2009; Kroneberg, 2008).


SOCIETAL RECEPTION


East Asians


Early immigrants from East Asia encountered an extremely prejudiced society and endured numerous discriminatory incidents in their everyday life in the United States. This racism often limited employment opportunities, making it difficult to thrive economically and socially. Notable occurrences that were heinous enough to capture the public’s attention include the massacre of Chinese in Los Angeles, California, in 1871, and in Rock Springs, Wyoming, in 1885. In addition, thousands of Japanese Americans suffered internment during WWII as well as housing and job discrimination following WWII (Fong, 2008; Kitano, 1993; Zhou & Gatewood, 2007).


While the advent of the “model minority” image after WWII may appear to signal a positive shift in social reception toward Asians, the literature indicates that on the contrary, discrimination and prejudice have continued to characterize the overall experiences of Asian American communities in the United States (Fong, 2008). During the Cold War, for example, Chinese were accused of espionage and treason; later on in the 1980s and 1990s, economic competition with Japan during a time of recession led to “Japan-Bashing” that contributed to general anti-Asian violence, which was the driving force behind the highly publicized brutal 1982 murder of Vincent Chin (Fong, 2008; Kitano, 1993; Yosso, 2005; Zhou & Gatewood, 2007).


South Asians


The earliest migrants were perceived as illiterate and backward. They were heavily discriminated against and their arrival was dubbed by American media as “a tide of turbans” (Purkayastha, 2005, p. 17; Verma, 2008, p. 3). South Asians migrating to the United States after 1965 appeared to be a new group. They were well-educated, English-proficient, highly qualified professionals who were able to settle in middle-class neighborhoods. Although they were viewed as a model minority with more successful integration into American society, they still encountered glass ceilings in the workplace and other barriers both socially and professionally (Purkayastha, 2005; Verma, 2008). In the post-9/11 political climate, many South Asians from all immigration waves encountered anti-immigration sentiment and racism (Verma, 2008). Newer immigrants are perceived differently from the 1965 immigration wave. These new arrivals are increasingly settling in working-class ethnic enclaves and are viewed as the low-skilled “unassimilable foreigner” holding onto backwards traditions (Verma, 2008, p. 6).


Southeast Asians


The Vietnam War was incredibly divisive in the United States, and when refugees began arriving, they encountered a society in which their presence was often a painful reminder of the conflict, and met with derision and hatred (Portes & Rumbaut, 1990; Takaki, 1998). According to a 1992 survey, 70% of the children of Southeast Asian refugees felt that they had encountered race-based discrimination (Zhou & Xiong, 2005). In addition to their unwelcome arrival, Southeast Asians had limited job skills, little education, and the inability to speak English, making it extremely difficult to find employment in the United States.


Filipinos


As the number of Filipino Americans grew in the 1920s and 1930s, racism against this group intensified, particularly when competition for jobs grew fierce during the Great Depression (Matsuoka & Ryujin, 1991; Takaki, 1998). Filipino Americans endured expulsion from their homes, hostile attacks, and even murder, as in the 1928 riots in Watsonville, California (Chan, 1991). Even pensionados, college students from elite and middle class Filipino families recruited to American colleges, were treated poorly. Many of them chose to return home because of the lack of White acceptance, while others stayed and worked menial jobs (Bankston, 2006; Nadal, 2009).


However, since 1956, societal reception in the United States has been more neutral towards Filipinos. While Filipinos were able to integrate more into the workforce and the American landscape with their English fluency and skills, there have still been some professional and social barriers (Espiritu, 1996; Wolf, 1997).


CO-ETHNIC COMMUNITIES


East Asians


In the late 19th century, Chinese and Japanese immigrants and those that were native born sought refuge in ethnic enclaves such as San Francisco’s Chinatown and Japan Town as well as Little Tokyo and Chinatown in Los Angeles. While ethnic towns were nonexistent for the Chinese who first arrived, many such communities formed and eventually strengthened over time, becoming the central places for pre-1965 immigrants upon arrival. These designated towns or “immigrant gateways” served to build social networks, access resources, and house entrepreneurial businesses providing employment within their own co-ethnic communities. Koreatown in Los Angeles also started in pre-1965 and eventually grew rapidly following the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965. Koreatown has grown steadily in many metropolitan areas but declined in California due to the Los Angeles Riots in the early 1990s (Li & Skop, 2007).


Continued high rates of Chinese and Korean immigration sustain these ethnic enclaves in urban areas; however, many immigrants after 1965 started to move into ethnoburbs. This is especially true for Chinese immigrants, who tended to have more education and job skills than the earlier immigrants. Chinese businesses and shops eventually started to emerge as well in ethnoburbs to serve the needs of the Chinese community (Li, 1998; Wen, Lauderdale, & Kandula, 2009). Strong co-ethnic networks still support the Chinese community today as many are heavily concentrated in regions such as San Gabriel Valley in California (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001; Zhou, Tseng, & Kim, 2008). Koreans are following a similar trend towards ethnoburbs with emerging residential and business clusters. The Korean co-ethnic community is still considered one of the most concentrated of all ethnic groups (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001). Historical and current trends show that Korean co-ethnic communities remain strong as resources and employment are available through various shops, supermarkets, different types of firms, churches, educational and other services, etc. Small and larger Korean entrepreneurial businesses and firms continue to be a source of livelihood for many Koreans (Yu, 2003; Zhou et al., 2008).


The number of Japanese immigrants is not large enough to maintain similar conditions; however, Japanese Americans do maintain ethnic connections via organizations and online communities similar to many other ethnic groups (Fujita & O’Brien, 1991). Given their unique history, many Japanese Americans are now dispersed throughout the United States. Though Japantowns are frequented on occasion, Japanese co-ethnic networks are limited in their resources and employment opportunities for new immigrants as they are now professionally established outside of their ethnic networks (Kitano, 1993). Now having been here for several generations, Japanese Americans are well-integrated into mainstream America, including marriage outside of their own race, which is reflected within their population where one third is of mixed descent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a). Many East Asian parents find cultural and educational resources in co-ethnic communities, such as language schools, cultural dance and arts, and private tutoring or academic classes. While this is not uncommon for the Japanese, it is a particularly common practice for Chinese and Koreans, which may be one explanation for why they continue to do well in school (Zhou, 2008).


South Asians


The pre-1965 Punjabi immigrants traveled in groups, and facing discrimination from the local community, they settled and found refuge in their own ethnic enclaves (Leonard, 1997). The post-1965 South Asian immigrants, however, assimilated into middle-class, mostly White suburbs. Because this wave came with more education, professional degrees (e.g., doctors, scientists, engineers, etc.), and the ability to speak English, they often did not need to rely on their own co-ethnic communities for employment or other resources (Bhattacharya & Schoppelrey, 2004; Leonard, 1997; Purkayastha, 2005). Many of these immigrants were already equipped with their own human, social, and cultural capital. Despite their dispersed settlement, they still maintained strong ties for other social resources (Purkayastha, 2005). The subgroup of newer, working-class immigrants is settling in urban areas where ethnic enclaves are prominent and growing. Because jobs were not readily available for this group of less qualified immigrants, urban ethnic enclaves provide an initial social and economic platform for newly arriving families (Leonard, 1997; Verma, 2008). Each immigration wave has maintained strong transnational networks with South Asian family and friends in their home countries and scattered all over the world (Purkayastha, 2005).


Southeast Asians


Before 1975, immigration from Southeast Asian countries was almost nonexistent, and no ethnic enclaves existed when they first came to the United States. Furthermore, upon arriving, Southeast Asian refugees were scattered to different communities throughout the United States. Because of this, refugee groups had no existing co-ethnic community upon arrival (Portes & Zhou, 1993; Rumbaut, 2000). Though all refugee groups engaged in significant “secondary migration” to reunite with their families or communities, only second-wave Vietnamese immigrants had the benefit of emerging co-ethnic communities. Developed by the first-wave who had more education and experience, they were able to provide social, cultural, human, and economic capital that eased the transition to the United States for later refugees (R. Y. Kim, 2002). Vietnamese ethnic enclaves were created quickly and had a positive impact on many refugees who came in second and third waves. This group as a whole benefited from a relatively strong co-ethnic community upon incorporation into the United States (Kelly, 1986; Portes & Rumbaut, 1990). While Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotian groups also formed ethnic enclaves and even designated ethnic towns (such as Little Cambodia in Long Beach, California, and Little Mekong in St. Paul, Minnesota), these communities lacked the concentration of professionals and entrepreneurs necessary for collective upward social mobility (Bankston & Zhou, 1995; Hing, 1997).


Filipinos


Pre-1965 immigrants tended to live in ethnic neighborhoods like Filipinotown in Los Angeles, the San Francisco’s Tenderloin, and in downtown Seattle. Like many other Asian immigrants, Filipinos also found their ethnic towns to be a place of refuge, but many Filipinotowns eventually became historic towns, such as in L.A. or Stockton. Some Filipino Americans still live in ethnic enclaves, but the majority of post-1965 immigrants have moved to ethnoburbs and other suburban areas (Nadal, 2009). Similar to the Japanese and South Asians, Filipinos are also dispersed throughout different communities (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001). Given their college education, professional skills (i.e., nursing, pharmacy, technicians, etc.), and their ability to speak English, they were able to assimilate more easily into the American workforce and community (Espiritu, 1996). Consequently, they are less reliant on their co-ethnic communities for employment and other resources for upward mobility (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001; Wolf, 1997). However, Filipino Americans have created many organizations that provide cultural and social activities (Reisch, 2008). Of note is the number of “regional and hometown” organizations that were created in order to connect with others from the same areas of the Philippines (Espiritu, 2003). In San Diego alone, over 150 of these organizations exist, contributing to regional or hometown pride consisting of both Filipinos and Filipino Americans (Espiritu, 2003).


OTHER BARRIERS AND OPPORTUNITIES


East Asians


The first wave of immigrants from China, Korea, and Japan came without command of the English language and were primarily peasants who worked as laborers. Both the Koreans and Japanese initially served on plantations in Hawaii, while the Chinese entered through California as gold miners and later as railroad laborers (Takaki, 1998). Between the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965, the second, more diverse wave of Chinese immigrants arrived, including merchants, spouses, students, children, war brides, and even professionals gaining entry through various policies (Smith-Hefner, 1993).


In further contrast, the third, post-1965 wave of Chinese and Korean immigrants entered with a college education and/or with intent to further their education, and often held management or professional positions in the United States. Rather than moving into ethnic enclaves within metropolitan cities, many ethnoburbs with businesses and shops have now received newcomers on the Western and Eastern seaboards (Fong, 2008; J. Kim et al., 2003; Li & Skop, 2007; Smith-Hefner, 1993). These characteristics—high educational attainment, professional or managerial work, and suburban life—are also true of the more recent Japanese American generations (Kitano, 1993).


South Asians


The earliest South Asian immigrants were mostly peasants from India’s Punjab province. They were uneducated, spoke little English, and settled as poor farmers in rural California (Leonard, 1997). The post-1965 immigrants came from all over India and other parts of the Indian subcontinent. These immigrants with college and graduate degrees were financially successful. A majority occupied white-collar positions as engineers, medical doctors, and scientists and settled in suburban middle class neighborhoods (Bhattacharya & Schoppelrey, 2004; Purkayastha, 2005; Sandhu & Madathil, 2008). The newest South Asian migrants have gravitated to the ethnic neighborhoods in urban America. Many of these immigrants are less educated and less fluent in English than their predecessors. Even those with a college education find that their foreign degrees are not accepted in the United States (Bhattacharya & Schoppelrey, 2004; Chhaya Community Development Corporation, 2012; National Asian Pacific American Comunity Development Data Center, 2005). They work in low-wage occupations and face hardship in the host country with competition for limited jobs, poverty, and anti-immigrant attitudes (Verma, 2008).


Southeast Asians


Upon their arrival, Southeast Asian refugees encountered many structural barriers to upward social mobility. The majority of refugees from all countries, with the exception of many first-wave and some second-wave Vietnamese, had little to no education or job skills and worked in factories for minimum wage (Rumbaut, 2000; Trueba et al., 1990). These refugees often assimilated into low-income neighborhoods with low-achieving peers (Hidalgo & Bankston, 2008; Zhou & Xiong, 2005). Learning English was challenging; many second-generation Southeast Asian Americans reported in 2009 that their parents still do not speak English well (Niedzwiecki & Duong, 2009). Historical experiences were also impactful: Cambodians are especially prone to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and other illnesses as a result of Khmer Rouge rule; such emotional trauma and physical stress have been linked to lower achievement in their children (Hinton, Rasmussen, Nou, Pollack, & Good, 2009).


Filipinos


Filipino Americans’ overall rate of immigrant naturalization is much higher than the national average (60% vs. 40%), and they also have the highest percentage of foreign-born naturalized citizens among all Asian groups (Reeves & Bennett, 2004; U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). Similar to other groups, early Filipino immigrants came as laborers with little education, although there were a number of students (pensionados) who were later recruited to study in the United States (Bankston, 2006; Nadal, 2009). Filipinos have been characterized as professionals that are both “upwardly mobile” and from relatively high socio-economic levels (Wolf, 1997; Zhou & Xiong, 2005). Bachelor’s degree attainment levels are similar to those of the overall Asian American population and markedly higher than those of the overall U.S. population (Reeves & Bennett, 2004). Filipino Americans also tend to be bilingual: Tagalog is the fifth most spoken non-English language in the United States and 78% of foreign-born Filipinos note it is their primary language, while 92% of Filipinos in California speak English fluently, which is the highest of all Asian American groups (Shin & Bruno, 2003; U.S. Census Bureau, 2000, 2010b).


LINKING THE PAST TO CURRENT EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES: A LONG-LENS PERSPECTIVE


MODES OF INCORPORATION AND UPWARD MOBILITY


Government policy, societal reception, and co-ethnic communities varied depending on pre- and post-1965 arrival. The initial waves of East Asian, South Asian, and Filipino immigrants were met with hostility from the U.S. government in the form of blocked immigration. After the Korean War, some Koreans encountered receptive policy as adoptees, war brides, and students were brought over as the second wave; later, larger scale immigration through various neutral policies allowed Chinese refugees and other Asian immigrants to the United States. In particular, the Immigrant Act of 1965 encouraged many skilled professionals to immigrate, prompting the third wave of immigrants. The new act also allowed immigration to South Asians, especially those with skilled professions, and more recent arrivals with less education and status.


While new immigrants came in large numbers, the same was not true for the Japanese, as their population remained largely stagnant. More receptive government policies were also in effect for Japanese Americans given their unfair and harsh internment experiences. Government policies for Filipinos also varied both before and after 1965. While policies were mostly indifferent, they were also hostile at times, and yet receptive towards specific groups such as nurses and military personnel. For Southeast Asians, government policies have been the most receptive to this group providing government support and resettlement assistance.


All Asian American groups that arrived before and after 1965 encountered some form of societal prejudice, limiting their economic opportunities. In the post-1965 era, however, South Asian and Filipino immigrants began to integrate more into the American workforce, though they still encountered different forms of discrimination such as glass ceilings and unfair practices. Since 9/11, many South Asians have also experienced a hostile and prejudiced society. Though the Southeast Asian refugees arrived in 1975, they have also faced loss or prejudice.


Hostile and prejudiced experiences were common for most first-wave immigrants, and many also initially had weak co-ethnic communities as new immigrants often arrived with limited skills. Their numbers were smaller and they arrived with less human capital in general, limiting their opportunities for upward mobility in the early years. However, pre-1965 Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and South Asian communities came together very quickly to form ethnic enclaves providing a cultural and economic buffer against a prejudiced American society. By the time the second wave of Chinese arrived in 1882, ethnic enclaves had formed, granting these immigrants places to more easily settle in the United States. Korean second wavers from 1950–1965 generally assimilated into dominant society as adoptees, war brides, or students, but some moved into ethnic enclaves as well. The Japanese, Filipinos, and South Asians also found strength in numbers, developing more resources to support the challenges that existed outside of their ethnic enclaves.


Many new immigrants eventually had access to stronger co-ethnic communities, allowing more stability and growth in a new country. The entrepreneurial Chinese and Koreans had grown substantially, establishing ethnic towns and ethnoburbs throughout metropolitan areas. The Japanese also developed a strong co-ethnic network, but their diminished immigration numbers after the war weakened their ethnic towns over time. The Japanese slowly became more dispersed as they spoke English, were educated, understood how to navigate the American system, and became integrated into the American workforce. Similarly, Filipinos and South Asians could also speak English, were more educated, and had professional skills allowing them to move more seamlessly into the labor market. Many Filipinos and Japanese moved out of their urban ethnic enclaves and into the suburbs, eventually becoming more dispersed. While South Asians also moved out of ethnic enclaves, later newcomers settled directly into middle-class White suburbs. Unlike the Chinese and Korean entrepreneurs who reinforced their cultural and economic ties by hiring their own or leaving their businesses to co-ethnic newcomers, the Filipinos, South Asians, and even Japanese in general were more professionally inclined with more access to mainstream America. Without a need for an economic buffer and in the absence of stronger co-ethnic communities, these immigrants eventually became more acculturated and dispersed over time (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001). The more recent South Asian group with less skills and education is the exception as they have found opportunities in their existing ethnic enclaves.


Chinese, Japanese, Korean, South Asian, and Filipino waves experiencing varying degrees of hostility from the government were met with substantial barriers to success, including limited educational and occupational opportunity. However, the pre-1965 groups who formed strong co-ethnic communities (i.e., Chinatowns, Japantowns, Koreatowns, etc.) provided buffers for future generations and later newcomers, leading to upward mobility and increased opportunities. Receptive government policies, on the other hand, are not necessarily a guarantee to success, as can be seen in the case of Southeast Asians. While government support was critical for their survival, many refugees arrived with limited language and job skills. In addition, there were no co-ethnic communities to receive the newcomers. In 1975, Vietnamese refugees quickly created ethnic enclaves that provided assistance in the settlement of the Vietnamese immigrant community as a whole. Smaller in numbers and less skilled, Cambodians, Laotians, and Hmong had weak co-ethnic communities throughout their immigration process.


Given the prejudice experienced by all groups, the societal reception in general discouraged most groups towards occupational and educational success. However, many Asian Americans were able to overcome the discrimination by finding collective support initially from their co-ethnic communities. Where government policy and societal reception were unfavorable, co-ethnic communities were sometimes the sole source of occupational opportunity and survival. Without a co-ethnic community, some groups had more challenges facing discrimination. They lacked resources, knowledge, and skills in how to navigate a new country, which inevitably limited their upward mobility in mainstream America.


Co-ethnic communities appear to provide the most support and resources to educational and occupational outcomes, particularly when combined with a nonhostile government policy in which immigration is legalized or encouraged, in which cases they serve as a buffer against societal prejudice to support high achievement. This can be seen most clearly in the case of the Southeast Asian group, which overall has experienced low achievement except in the case of the Vietnamese refugees who appear to have benefited more from an established co-ethnic community. In contrast, the Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotians have struggled economically and educationally due to their small numbers and limited human capital.


The literature and census data show educational attainment appears to be the highest for South Asians, Koreans, and Chinese immigrants (Blair & Qian, 1998; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010c). In the case of South Asians, in general they are the highest achieving group in the United States, despite the fact that their co-ethnic community is dispersed. While earlier immigrants benefited from ethnic enclaves, in general post-1965 South Asian immigrants arrived with more human capital. Because they had more education, high-level skills, and English proficiency, they were often able to assimilate into more affluent neighborhoods. These characteristics have given them a head start compared to other immigrants. The Chinese and Koreans seem to have benefited greatly from their co-ethnic communities where cultural and social ties are continually reinforced. The Chinese and Koreans have leveraged culture and education through educational programs and services found within their own co-ethnic communities. Language schools and private tutoring are the norm for students both here and in their national countries and can even be found in churches, especially for Koreans (Zhou & Kim, 2006). Not surprisingly, these educational services have also become lucrative businesses.  


In the case of Japanese and Filipinos, academic achievement appears to be high in general, but mixed, particularly for later generations of Filipinos. While both have high rates of college completion, they have fewer graduate degrees than South Asians, Chinese, and Koreans. The Japanese and Filipinos are unique in their co-ethnic communities, as they have been here longer than most immigrant groups with the exception of the Chinese, who also have a great number of recent arrivals. With the passage of time, immigrants naturally become more acculturated and dispersed. In terms of education, studies have found the drive for achievement may lessen with acculturation, which may be one explanation in understanding their educational trends. Immigrant children in general appear to do better than children of natives (Portes & Rumbaut, 1990, 2001). Because Filipinos and Japanese have been here for several generations, their co-ethnic communities have also changed over time, lessening their cultural ties (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001). These changes in their co-ethnic communities and its linkage to ethnic identities and educational outcomes should be further examined in understanding diverse Asian American groups.


BARRIERS, OPPORTUNITIES, AND UPWARD MOBILITY


Time of arrival, location, class status, occupation, educational level, and English-speaking ability upon arrival were additional barriers or opportunities for immigrants. While co-ethnic communities have been a significant form of support, access to these communities was not always feasible for some groups. As ethnic towns and ethnoburbs varied across the states, most immigrants tried to settle near relatives, friends, or others of similar heritage. Placement of ethnically populated areas in metropolitan and coastal regions allowed co-ethnic communities to easily receive newcomers. Thus, the actual settlement place could add to the groups’ collective social and cultural capital, serving the immigrant generations in their acculturation process. However, some ethnic groups, such as the Laotians, were smaller in number and/or dispersed across all 50 states, producing little to no ethnic towns or enclaves.


For these reasons, historically, Asian immigrants have tended to settle in states bordering the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. For the pre-1965 waves, California was the most common settlement place for all but the Japanese and Filipino immigrants, who also came to California in large numbers but more often settled in Hawaii. Post-1965, California remains a primary location for all groups. Asian Americans also reside in large numbers in the east coast, such as New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Illinois, Texas, Washington, Nevada, and Florida were also common settlement places for some groups. Hmong and Laotians settled largely in Minnesota and Wisconsin, while Vietnamese were spread across several southern states.


Class status, occupation, and educational level have played a major role in society for all individuals, particularly for immigrants upon arrival. While government support, societal reception, and co-ethnic communities are indeed important to their acculturation experience, immigrant arrival is not equal. The case of East and South Asians most clearly demonstrates how educational attainment has risen alongside the immigration of more highly educated and wealthy groups. Asian American immigrants came to the United States with a variety of educational backgrounds. In general, early Asian immigrants came with less education than more recent immigrants in the post-1965 era. Often, the first waves had no education, though some second-wave Chinese and Koreans had attended schools or even held college or graduate degrees, and some pre-1965 Filipino immigrants were also college educated. In regards to post-1965 immigration, the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, South Asians, Filipinos, and some Vietnamese came with relatively higher educational backgrounds, often college- and graduate-level education. The Hmong, Cambodian, and Laotian, and later Vietnamese, groups had relatively lower educational backgrounds, with primarily no education, though some had attended schools in their countries of origin.


In terms of class status, only a few came under privileged conditions. The initial waves of all pre-1965 groups as well as all Southeast Asian groups were low income (see Table 3). Later waves included low-, middle-, and upper-class Chinese, Japanese, Korean, South Asian, and Filipino. While the earliest South Asian immigrants were low income, post-1965 South Asians have been typically upper class, but with a subgroup of recent arrivals who are low-income.


Many of the early immigrants were also blue-collar workers. They came for economic reasons and found themselves in menial labor due to limited education, job skills, and language skills. However, some highly educated groups who could not speak English also resorted to similar jobs. For example, early Chinese immigrants who were doctors or other professionals were forced into menial jobs due to their limited English fluency. As such, the initial waves of pre-1965 groups and the four Southeast Asian groups consisted of blue-collar workers. Most of these groups worked as laborers, farm-related workers, and merchants. The Southeast Asian groups also included factory workers, entrepreneurs, and assistants. Second-wave Korean immigrants tended to come as students, war brides, or adopted children and so were not classified in terms of occupation. Post-1965 immigrants were afforded more opportunities as groups (excluding Southeast Asians) and were in mostly white-collar professional occupations, though some South Asians as well as some Korean arrivals occupied blue-collar positions such as taxi driver, small business owner, and clerk.


The lack of English fluency provided additional barriers into a new country. Many of the ethnic groups (Chinese, Korean, Hmong, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Laotian) were not fluent in English upon arrival, while Japanese, South Asians, and Filipinos had some English fluency post-1965. Regardless of English fluency, most Asian American subgroups used a native and diverse language other than English.


Incoming immigrant levels of education, occupational and class status, language abilities, and settlement places inevitably affect subsequent educational attainment rates in the United States. However, research shows that co-ethnic communities can support lower achieving immigrants to benefit from human, cultural, and social capital (Maloof & Miller, 2006; Zhou & Bankston, 1994). Access to resources, such as after-school or language programs through ethnic circles, has reinforced cultural and social ties particularly for East Asian communities (i.e., Chinese, Koreans, etc.). High and lower-achieving Asian Americans in general appear to benefit from such tight-knit networks (Maloof & Miller, 2006). The Vietnamese case also demonstrates how the presence of a co-ethnic community can serve to transfer collective economic and human capital to newcomers, particularly those of low-income and poorly educated backgrounds (R. Y. Kim, 2002; Rumbaut, 2000; Zhou & Bankston, 1994). These additional barriers and opportunities do not tell the complete story but add to the historical picture of how diverse Asian American experiences can impact upward mobility.


CONCLUSION AND EDUCATIONAL IMPLICATIONS


The historical analysis of major Asian American groups demonstrates the wide variation in their historical immigration experiences and subsequent educational outcomes and upward mobility. The adapted model provides a long-lens perspective to collectively and systematically examine the historical experiences of diverse Asian American groups and their current outcomes. Specifically, government policy has been mostly neutral toward general immigration from all groups post-1965 but more encouraging to the influx of highly educated immigrants who have come primarily from East Asia, South Asia, as well as the Philippines; additionally, their established co-ethnic communities upon early arrival allowed them to transfer social, cultural, and human capital to subsequent generations, despite the societal prejudice they often faced. However, ethnic groups with both positive and negative factors within the modes of incorporation have not achieved at the levels seen by the East and South Asian majority groups. Many Chinese and Koreans continue to build human capital from their co-ethnic communities, while South Asians in general already possess human capital upon arrival. Southeast Asians, on the other hand, also encountered societal prejudice, but lacked co-ethnic communities except in the case of Vietnamese immigrants. Positive government policy was not enough to overcome the barriers encountered within the other two modes of incorporation, combined with their lack of education, language, and job skills. Other factors, such as time of arrival, settlement places, and class status were additional barriers or opportunities for these groups. The South Asian subgroup of less qualified, low-income, recent arrivals have encountered an indifferent government policy with no aid or assistance, as well as a prejudiced society. However, their emerging co-ethnic networks are helping them to survive; in terms of educational outcomes, this particular group has been experiencing more challenges in schools, which may affect their achievement in the future.


Given the vast experiences and diverse characteristics of each cultural group, it was impossible to develop an in-depth investigation for each group; however, this analytic study was able to provide the breadth and depth necessary to systematically examine the differences and similarities across major groups. While there is more work to be done in examining these characteristics, this study provides a historical basis that actualizes the importance of disaggregated data. The unique immigrant Asian stories (both pre- and post-1965) presented in this study challenge the existing monolithic stereotypes and experiences and show diverse pathways that may not always lead to promising results.


Generational status and acculturative processes are also important factors in understanding the immigrant experience. While the article discussed some generational issues, many of the recent immigrant groups are still in their first and second generations; at the same time, some groups have been here for more than five generations. For these reasons, discussing the generational differences across these groups were beyond the scope of this study; however, future research should examine generational status and acculturation for diverse ethnic groups. In regards to acculturation, segmented assimilation or other acculturation theories might provide an additional theoretical lens to explore and understand immigrant adaption. Rates of acculturation vary across all immigrant groups, and these differ even from family to family. Immigrant parents and their children may also acculturate at different rates affecting family dynamics, as well their involvement with their own ethnic communities. With the passage of time, significant changes occur with each immigrant group. Each successive generation may become more “American,” where English is often the first learned language and students identify more easily with their American peers in schools. Ethnic identities also become more acculturated and less hyphenated, complicating self-identities for children of immigrants. Ethnic identities also vary by ethnicity, class, generational status, and other factors for immigrant children; this is another ripe area that calls for future research. Ethnic identities and their relationship to schooling experiences can also help inform the educational outcomes of diverse Asian American populations.


Acculturation is inevitable; it has varying effects for different generations. However, the drive for achievement appears to lessen with time for groups that have been here longer, as in the case of Filipinos and Japanese. However, an influx of new Filipino and Chinese immigrants will either reinforce the current status of their co-ethnic communities or alter it to the needs of the new arrivals, as in the case of new South Asians. While the entrepreneurial Chinese and Korean co-ethnic communities are still concentrated, they too may become more acculturated and dispersed over time. Second generation and beyond who are educated here may no longer want to carry on the family business. These groups are increasingly becoming more professionally skilled with each generation and often want to move toward their peers who may not live in ethnic enclaves or ethnoburbs. This story is still new for Southeast Asians who have been here the shortest time and have acculturated at a slower pace, given their smaller numbers and limited human capital. However, the second generation is now emerging into adulthood with more English proficiency and acculturation than their parents. While growing pains are still evident for the Southeast Asians, they have found education to be a social avenue into mainstream America, especially within Vietnamese co-ethnic communities. As immigrant and minority populations are rapidly growing in the United States, immigrant education is a national agenda that calls for educators, researchers, and policy makers to work together. Despite being one of the fastest growing and largest incoming populations, there is still relatively little research on diverse Asian Americans in general. Educational and occupational trends vary across Asian American groups, and some groups are still struggling with limited access to support and opportunity.


So, what can we learn from the historical perspectives of diverse Asian American communities? What are some educational research, practice, and policy implications? First, historical context is relevant to every immigrant story. Historical experiences link to current social, occupational, and educational outcomes; it allows for a better understanding of the diversity that exists within the Asian American population. Historians argue that it is only through the past that we can understand the present and future. With the ever-present diversity in our schools and classrooms, it is important for educators to learn about their students’ backgrounds as well as the families and ethnic communities whom they serve. From a practical standpoint, historical contexts and student backgrounds can help inform how teachers work with their students in the classroom. Educators can respond with more cultural sensitivity; teachers could develop lesson plans that help students explore their own ethnic backgrounds, investigate and share histories about their ethnic communities, and celebrate diverse cultures, traditions, and languages in the classroom. Understanding contextual factors also prepares teachers to work effectively with parents and their ethnic communities; these cultural connections can bridge positive home–school partnerships. Educators can also learn that languages are diverse for Asian American populations. Some students come from more English-proficient families, such as Filipino or Indian communities; in other cases, interpreters could help support stronger home–school connections for parent meetings, newsletters, or other venues. History is also an important tool for researchers and policy makers; effective research and policy is typically the product of understanding past, present, and future trends and outcomes. History provides the long-lens perspective to understand current issues to create effective policies. For example, historical knowledge can be used to develop more effective programs in current day to support students and families in need as in the case of Hmong, Cambodian, or Laotian groups.


Second, this article also challenges the model minority stereotype by discussing the diversity that exists within and between Asian American groups. Although some studies have challenged this notion, little is still known about the diverse characteristics across these ethnic groups. This article included the major groups and subgroups, but there are currently more than 34 Asian groups and over 300 languages (Teranishi, Ceja, Antonio, Allen, & McDonough, 2004). The diverse stories of the past and present unmasks the educational needs of many groups within the Asian American community that have gone ignored for too long, and sensitizes educators, researchers, and policy makers to possible diverse needs and experiences even within Asian ethnic groups (Lee, 1996). Although many Asian Americans in general appear to do well in school, there are also a number of students who struggle academically. For example, Southeast Asians in general are still struggling in schools (Ngo & Lee, 2007). While there is little research on other groups, achievement variation does exist even for South Asian, Filipino, and East Asian students (Lew, 2006; Teranishi, 2010). Future studies are needed to unfold the stories of both the successes and challenges of diverse Asian American groups. Teachers and other educators need to be aware that the model minority stereotype, as with any stereotype, has unfair expectations of Asian American students; at the same time, it creates a sort of racial hierarchy with other ethnic groups. While some groups are higher achieving, many Asian American students struggle due to the lack of resources; they experience more barriers than opportunities in education. Researchers and policy makers also need to reconsider their monolithic approaches to research or policy making when studying Asian American populations. This article has also demonstrated the importance of disaggregating data. Research is starting to emerge to show these differences, but there is further need to disaggregate the findings across diverse Asian American populations.


Lastly, there were several interesting findings from this analytic study; however, one of the key findings emphasized the importance of co-ethnic communities. Based on the adapted model, strong, weak, or dispersed communities exist across diverse Asian American populations. As noted earlier, all Asians are collectivistic to some degree, but communities differ in their resources and opportunities. Stronger co-ethnic communities, such as the Chinese and Korean communities, continue to be a source of strength for many families; they house many educational programs that support students across all ages. Dispersed groups, such as Filipino, Indian, or Japanese Americans, rely less on their ethnic communities; they are more independent with their English-speaking abilities and strong human capital. However, the weaker co-ethnic communities, such as the Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian, and some Vietnamese groups, have fewer resources in general. For these communities, bridging home–school–community networks can provide greater support and resources. Educators and community members can work together to engage families; schools can also involve ethnic community-based organizations. By learning about historical contexts and its influence on ethnic, cultural, and linguistic identities, educators can work effectively with families and ethnic communities. Researchers and policy makers can build programs to support weaker communities; at the same time, they can learn about the characteristics and strengths of stronger communities. As with any immigrant group, ethnic families and their communities, whether weak or strong, are continually evolving and changing over time. To support the overall success of diverse Asian American populations, key stakeholders within governmental and educational institutions, as well as in communities where immigrant groups are concentrated, can work together to support positive opportunity structures and partnerships. Future research can also enable such efforts by further developing our understanding of how generational shifts alter educational trends or of the nature of co-ethnic communities by identifying and strengthening aspects of their form and function that seem to most strongly support high achievement.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 8, 2014, p. 1-45
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17512, Date Accessed: 5/8/2021 7:01:00 AM

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  • 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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