Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hard work and education. Who knew?

From Why Asian Americans Excel at Academics by Tom Jacob. The information reported is very supportive of The Triple Package thesis by Amy CHua and Jed Rubenfeld.

The very succinct summary of the accumulating evidence as to what determines life outcomes, not just for immigrants:
Why do Asian Americans, as a group, tend to excel at academics? Newly published research arrives at a simple answer: They work harder than their non-Asian peers.

The study also attempts to answer the less-simple question of why these kids tend to put more effort into their studies, and comes up with two likely answers: The culturally based belief that effort leads to achievement, and the fact that recent immigrants are highly motivated to succeed.
Hard work and education. Who knew?

A nice nail in the coffin of the biological determinism school of thought:
The researchers report that the achievement gap between Asian American and white American kids starts off as small to non-existent, but gradually grows, peaking in 10th grade. This suggests the difference reflects “academic effort rather than differences in cognitive ability,” they write.


“Given their marginal position as relative newcomers to the U.S. with few political and social resources, Asian Americans may see educational credentials as not only having symbolic value in terms of conferring social prestige, but as having great instrumental value as the surest way to attain upward mobility,” the researchers add.

The importance of this motivating factor is reinforced by the finding that “their educational advantages decline over generations,” Hsin and Xie write, “suggesting that third- and later-generation Asian-Americans do not benefit from these resources as much as first- or second-generation.”
On the importance of beliefs.
Regarding cultural differences about learning, “the results show that Asian Americans are less likely than whites to believe that ability is inborn, and more likely to believe that one can learn to be good at math,” the researchers write.
There is more interesting material in the report. What this and lots of other research I have seen in the past five years seem to be indicating is that life outcomes are not biologically determined nor are they institutionally determined (structural discrimination). Yes, those are marginal factors but they are not determinative. Rather, life outcomes appear to be materially determined but the old standbys: Confidence, optimism, perseverance, work ethic, agency, and other associated values and beliefs.

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