Combating the Model Minority Stereotype: The University of California Has Established a Multi-Campus Research Program to Study and Develop Solutions for Problems Affecting Asian Americans

By Nance, Molly | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, September 6, 2007 | Go to article overview

Combating the Model Minority Stereotype: The University of California Has Established a Multi-Campus Research Program to Study and Develop Solutions for Problems Affecting Asian Americans


Nance, Molly, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


LOS ANGELES

For more than a decade, a group of educational leaders within the University of California system have been working towards a common goal: the development of a statewide think tank that would address the issues of the growing Asian American and Pacific Islander population.

In July, the university system's Office of Research announced the establishment of the first UC Asian American and Pacific Islander Policy Multi-Campus Research Program, headquartered at the Asian American Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The program's director, Dr. Paul Ong, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and Asian American studies at UCLA, says such collaborative action is long overdue.

"I think the big change is that until recently the public policy issues for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were second thoughts in term of priorities," he says. "And clearly with the growing numbers, they bring a different perspective and different set of challenges to public policy."

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According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the number of Asian and Pacific Islanders in the United States has grown from 7.3 million in 1990 to 10.6 million in 2000, an increase of 45 percent. Nearly 4 million of them live in California.

The research program comprises 50 faculty members from all 10 UC campuses, bridging an assortment of disciplines including political science, economics, education and urban planning. This compilation of expertise will foster successful policy change, says Dr. Don T. Nakanishi, director of UCLA's Asian American Studies Center.

"This program is unique in that it will link together scholars from different disciplines to take a very close and hard look at the Asian American population and do so in a way that will be a public service," he says.

Nakanishi says a research program is needed to combat the Asian American "model minority" stereotype and address issues involving health care, educational access, employment and language acquisition.

"In fact, there are significant problems within the Asian population," he says, using as an example the disparity of income levels among Asian communities.

The research program has already gathered data showing that less than 13 percent of Asian Americans live at or below the poverty line, but as many as 40 percent of Southeast Asian populations--including Cambodians, Hmong and Laotians--live in poverty.

Nakanishi also notes that discrimination against Asian Americans still exists in the corporate and academic worlds.

"There is the issue of diversity within higher education. …

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