Declawing the 'tiger mom'
When Yale Law professor Amy Chua penned the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in 2011, she set off a firestorm debate about the supposed superiority of Asian parenting. The Tiger Mom’s style of punishing and shaming her children into success perpetuated the prevailing model minority stereotype of Asian American achievement in the U.S., and UCI sociology professor Jennifer Lee says, “it just isn’t true.”
The biggest predictor of a child’s success is parental education. If your parents are college-educated, the likelihood of you going to college and graduating is very high.
“The biggest predictor of a child’s success is parental education,” Lee says. “If your parents are college-educated, the likelihood of you going to college and graduating is very high.”
In her new book, The Asian American Achievement Paradox, Lee debunks the idea that Asian American academic achievement is due to unique cultural traits or values. Instead, she explains that there are very specific immigration patterns, institutions and social psychological factors that foster high academic achievement among certain Asian American groups.
“The change in U.S. immigration law in 1965 was critical, because it ushered in a new stream of immigrants from Asia who are hyperselected – meaning that they’re more highly educated than their compatriots and also more highly educated than the general U.S. population,” she says. The hyperselectivity of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. means their children begin their quest for success from more favorable “starting points” than do children of other immigrant groups, such as Mexicans, or native-born groups, including whites, she says.
Chances are, you’ve seen her work on CNN, read about her in The Washington Post, The Economist or The New York Times, or heard her on NPR – or the more than 50 other media outlets her work has been featured in. The book was one of several key highlights in a banner year for Lee who was also elected to the Sociological Research Association, named chair-elect of the American Sociological Association’s section on International Migration, and named deputy editor of the American Sociological Review.