The "Model Minority": Bane or Blessing for Asian Americans?

By Wong, Frieda; Halgin, Richard | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, January 2006 | Go to article overview

The "Model Minority": Bane or Blessing for Asian Americans?


Wong, Frieda, Halgin, Richard, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


Asian Americans have been touted as the "model minority" since the 1960s. The authors examine the prevalence, accuracy, and implications of this label, and, based on a review of the literature, discuss problems associated with this characterization. The authors point out ways in which such labeling impedes rather than facilitates access to various opportunities and also results in discrimination and societal indifference regarding the needs of Asian Americans.

Los Americanos Asiaticos han sido recomendados como el "modelo de la minoria" desde la decada de los 60. Los autores examinan la frecuencia, la certeza, y las implicaciones de este contenido, y basados en una revision de la literatura, discute los problemas asociados con esta caracterizacion. Los autores indican las maneras en que los contenidos estorba en vez de facilitar el acceso a varias oportunidades y tambien resultado en la discriminacion y la indiferencia social con respecto alas necesidades de Americanos Asiaticos.

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Since the 1960s, the popular press and media have portrayed Asian Americans as the "model minority"--successful minorities who have quietly moved to the pinnacle of success in various contexts through hard work and determination. Asian Americans are often depicted on television as restaurant or convenience store owners who arrived in the United States with no money and worked long hours to finally own a piece of the American dream or as eye glass-wearing, awkward nerds who spend countless hours in the library reading math and science books. Peterson (1966) coined the label "model minority" (p. 11) to describe Japanese Americans with the intention of praising the accomplishments of Japanese Americans and the suggestion that other racial/ ethnic minority groups should follow their example. Since then, the media have touted Asian Americans as the model minority who are viewed as experiencing increasing wealth, upward social mobility, and freedom from crime and mental health problems. They are especially acclaimed for their academic success, often portrayed as geniuses or science/math wizards.

In considering the issue of the model minority label, several issues warrant discussion; we consider some of them in this article. First, it is appropriate to question the extent to which Americans in general continue to view Asian Americans as a model minority group. Second, we discuss how Asian Americans feel about this label. Third, we address the accuracy of this label. Fourth, we consider the extent to which such labeling may ironically hinder the academic performance of some Asian Americans. Fifth, we discuss the ways in which such labeling may have detrimental social effects for Asian Americans.

The goal of this article is to explore the implications of the model minority label for Asian Americans and to discuss some of the misconceptions associated with this stereotype. We hope that this article will provide professionals, namely counselors who work with the Asian American population, with greater awareness of the perils of this label so that they can work more effectively with Asian Americans.

are asian americans still viewed as the model minority?

Although the media have depicted Asian Americans as a model minority since the 1960s, do Asian Americans themselves and other racial/ethnic groups perceive them as retaining this esteemed status? Apparently they do. Wong, Lai, Nagasawa, and Lin (1998) conducted a study of 1,257 students of different racial/ ethnic backgrounds and found that African American, Hispanic American, Native American, White, and even Asian American students viewed Asian Americans as model minority students. Students from all racial/ethnic backgrounds, including Asian Americans, believe that Asian Americans perform better academically, are more motivated to do well in college, and are more likely to succeed in their careers than are other students, including Whites. …

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