The New Chinese America: Class, Economy, and Social Hierarchy

The New Chinese America: Class, Economy, and Social Hierarchy

The New Chinese America: Class, Economy, and Social Hierarchy

The New Chinese America: Class, Economy, and Social Hierarchy


The 1965 Immigration Act altered the lives and outlook of Chinese Americans in fundamental ways. The New Chinese America explores the historical, economic, and social foundations of the Chinese American community, in order to reveal the emergence of a new social hierarchy after 1965.

In this detailed and comprehensive study of contemporary Chinese America, Xiaojian Zhao uses class analysis to illuminate the difficulties of everyday survival for poor and undocumented immigrants and analyzes the process through which social mobility occurs. Through ethnic ties, Chinese Americans have built an economy of their own in which entrepreneurs can maintain a competitive edge given their access to low-cost labor; workers who are shut out of the mainstream job market can find work and make a living; and consumers can enjoy high quality services at a great bargain. While the growth of the ethnic economy enhances ethnic bonds by increasing mutual dependencies among different groups of Chinese Americans, it also determines the limits of possibility for various individuals depending on their socioeconomic and immigration status.


Schools were in full session in late April. Tests were scheduled and papers and projects were due soon. But few graduating seniors with college admissions in hand would let schoolwork spoil their celebratory mood. The air was filled with a palpable excitement. The few weeks ahead would be about proms, graduations, and gatherings reaffirming friendships before bidding farewell.

Within the Chinese American community, excitement was mixed with high anxiety over the mysterious college admissions process. The success (or failure in some cases) of the soon-to-be-college students prompted many questions from parents with younger children: Why was a particular student accepted by one college but rejected by another? Why did John win a scholarship while his equally outstanding friend Larry got nothing? What exactly were the universities looking for? How much did they weigh extracurricular actives versus grades and test scores? And how should the younger high-school students prepare themselves for the upcoming challenges?

Chinese American parents’ high anxiety over the college admissions process and their strong desire to push their children ahead of the game were well anticipated by ethnic educational services. No time would be wasted. Before the departure of the senior class, programs were already scheduled to engage parents of younger children. On April 26, 2008, for example, a two-day “Education Show and Seminars” program was held in Los Angeles. This event was sponsored by Shijie ribao (Chinese Daily News), the most popular Chinese language newspaper in the United States; the Elite Educational Institute; and several professional services. Offering eighteen lectures and thirty exhibit tables, this education fair . . .

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