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Report finds sharp contrasts among Asian American communities

By Wendy Harris on Feb 25, 2014 04:38 PM

Asian Americans and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders are two of the fastest-growing racial groups in the Northeast. Although these ethnic groups often share experiences with language barriers, immigration, and discrimination, they sometimes differ significantly in their employment, economic status, and educational attainment.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a national affiliation of four civil rights organizations that promotes equity for underserved communities, recently released a report highlighting the distinctions within the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 23 distinct Asian American and 19 distinct Pacific Islander ethnic groups. The report, A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the Northeast, provides data on 30 ethnic groups, examining differences in their economic contributions, civic engagement, language proficiency, income levels, education, and other areas.

In looking at educational attainment for Asian American communities in Philadelphia, the report finds that 7 out of 10 Asian American adults age 25 or older have a high school diploma or GED. But among specific Asian American ethnic groups, Vietnamese and Cambodian American adults are less likely to have a high school diploma or GED than all other racial and ethnic groups. Only 48 percent of Vietnamese and 52 percent of Cambodian adults 25 years or older earned a high school diploma. Filipinos are at the top with 92 percent of that group earning a high school degree.  

When looking at post-secondary success, Asian American adults are more likely than other racial groups to have a college degree, but only 9 percent of Cambodian and 13 percent of Vietnamese Americans are college graduates. These rates are similar to those of Latinos (11 percent) and Blacks or African Americans (12 percent).

The data in the report is contrary to the “model minority” myth around Asian American students. It points out that Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities are not universally well-educated, and there are several reasons why.

At the high school level, many don’t obtain a diploma because of language barriers. In the School District of Philadelphia, the number of immigrant students has increased, but resources that support language access like bilingual staffing and bilingual programs have declined.   

Lori Shorr, Mayor Nutter's chief education officer, said that massive budget cuts caused reduction to services needed by students who must learn English. In order for these students to excel at math, language arts, and science, the District needs more money, she said.

Bullying and racial harassment have also become central concerns  for immigrant students, the report says, affecting their educational outcomes. According to Youth Risk Behavior Survey data, 19 percent of Asian American students in Philadelphia rarely or never feel safe at school, compared to 14 percent of whites.

Asian American students have diverse educational needs. A Community of Contrasts is the fifth in a series of reports that is attempting to promote a better understanding of those needs and others among these populations. Additional regional reports are planned on Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the South and the West.

Jeseamy Muentes contributed reporting. 

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Comments (10)

Submitted by Christopher Paslay (not verified) on February 25, 2014 6:23 pm
Ancient Chinese Secret: Why Asian Students Excel Academically:
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on February 26, 2014 8:11 am
The key to success on the Keystone Exams is having a lot of Asians in your school. I am sure that is the work of the teachers at those schools. Who must deserve merit pay.
Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on February 25, 2014 8:30 pm
Taxpayer, I must say you packed an extraordinary amount of bigotry into you comment.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 25, 2014 10:46 pm
This surprises you about "taxpayer?"
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on February 25, 2014 9:55 pm
North Allegheny School District is a top rated school district located north of Pittsburgh. The Asian community has taken it over with many of them graduating at the top. They are not allowed out at recess. They have to stay in their classroom and study. That's how serious it is in the Asian community. The school district should accommodate their needs with a school staffed to meet their needs. If they do it for targeted groups, then the school district should accommodate these Asians as well. Then, you will see better results.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 26, 2014 12:10 am
These statistics vary dramatically from state to state, even for Southeast Asians. These specific stats are only for Philadelphia
Submitted by Clarence (not verified) on February 26, 2014 6:55 am
Some might look at this study and say it is racist of the highest order.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 26, 2014 10:12 am
Sure. If you don't like the facts, just dismiss them. That'll do it.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2014 3:56 am

This information is not accurate.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 24, 2015 8:05 pm

PEW statistics are aggregated while the stats above are disaggregated. Read the articles closer.

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