Beware the “model minority” stereotype about Asian-Americans.

The Pew Center recently issued “The Rise of Asian-Americans,” stressing that they have the highest income and are the best educated of any racial group in the United States.

But that generalization paints too rosy a picture. It fails to shine a light upon some of the most glaring educational and class disparities among Asian communities.

The Pew report provides detailed information about the six largest Asian ethnic subgroups in the U.S. population: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. The data reveals stark differences among them in areas such as education and median earnings.

While 49 percent of all Asian adults over 25 were college educated, only 28.5 percent of Vietnamese adults fell into this category, compared to 70 percent of Indian adults. Likewise, while the median yearly earnings for all Asians is $48,000, for Vietnamese it is $35,000, compared to $54,000 for Japanese.

Apart from the six largest Asian ethnic subgroups, the Pew report lumps remaining ethnic groups such as Bangladeshis, Burmese, Cambodians, Hmong, Laotians, Pakistanis, Thais and Indonesians into a single “Other Asian-American” category. People in these groups are disproportionately likely to be refugees or recent immigrants who tend to face greater educational and income disparities. The “Other Asian-American” category reported a lower than average college education rate of 36 percent, as well as a low annual median earning of $36,600.

By neglecting these disparate experiences, the Pew report provides grist to the mill for those who wish to cast Asian-Americans as members of a “model minority” who do not face the same challenges as African-Americans, Latinos and other people of color.

Take the discussion of race-conscious policies in higher education. Opponents of race-conscious policies claim that Asian applicants are harmed when race is considered as one of many factors in admissions programs. But members of many Asian subgroups still need and benefit from these policies.

For example, according to the 2000 census, more than 50 percent of Cambodian, Hmong and Laotian-Americans achieve less than a high school education, compared to 19.6 percent of whites. But this fact is nowhere to be found in the Pew report, which stresses the high levels of education that Asian-Americans achieve as a whole.

Fortunately, the report does note that Asian-Americans do not believe their race harms them in the college admissions process. Only 12 percent believe it hurts to be an Asian-American applicant. This is important because, with the U.S. Supreme Court case Fisher v. UT-Austin set to determine the future of race-conscious admissions this fall, Asian-Americans have been depicted as feeling victimized by race-conscious policies. Clearly, that is not the case.

If the Pew report had paid sufficient attention to the educational and income disparities among Asian-American groups, it would have given a clearer picture of the issues and needs of the diverse Asian-American community.

The model-minority stereotype must go.

Khin Mai Aung is director of the Educational Equity Project at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. She can be reached at

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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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