chapter  4
17 Pages

THE ETHNIC SYSTEM OF SUPPLEMENTARY EDUCATION: Lessons From Chinatown and Koreatown, Los Angeles

The extraordinary educational achievement of the children of Asian immigrants has attracted a great deal of media and scholarly attention. Quantitative data show that children of Asian immigrants do signifi cantly better in school than children of other racial minorities and reach parity to (and, in some key outcome measures, surpass) non-Hispanic White children. Moreover, Asian Americans fare signifi cantly better than Whites in school outcomes such as grade-point average, while Blacks and Hispanics fare signifi cantly worse, even after controlling for family and demographic characteristics. What is more striking is that young Asian Americans-not only the children of foreign-born physicians, scientists, and engineers but also those of uneducated, low-skilled, and poor immigrants and refugees-have repeatedly shown up as high school valedictorians and academic decathlon winners and have enrolled in prestigious colleges and universities in disproportionately large numbers. Why do Asian Americans generally fare better in education than members of other ethnic minorities? Why does the ethnicity variable yield varied effects on children’s educational outcomes in statistical models? What is embedded in ethnicitysuperior cultural values or privileged social-class resources? Based on fi ndings from my ethnographic research on Chinese and Korean immigrant communities in Los Angeles, in this chapter I examine what gives the children of Chinese and Korean immigrants a competitive edge in the educational arena. I argue that what explains the educational achievement of Asian Americans is not cultural values per se, but rather the collective ability to actualize these values on the individual.