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Asian Americans Are the Best-Educated Group in US

Asian-American demonstrators protest outside the Supreme Court as the affirmative action in university admissions case was being heard by the court in Washington, December 9, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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For VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

Asian-Americans make the most money, on average, of any racial group in the United States.

Asian-Americans are also the best-educated racial group, say new statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau. 54 percent of Asians in the United States have at least a bachelor's degree.

In the U.S., 33 percent of the total population has a college degree.

Asian-Americans — immigrants, and their children born in the U.S., who come from East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent – account for about 6 percent of the U.S. population.

People of Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese origin make up the majority of the Asian-American population.

The role of U.S. immigration policy

Asian-Americans have had success, in part, because of U.S. immigration policy.

Experts say that U.S. immigration policy favors highly educated immigrants from Asian countries.

Eliza Noh, an associate professor at California State University, Fullerton, said that the U.S. has given preference to some Asian-American immigrants since 1965.

“Those groups tend to already have educational training and economic resources, which they invest in their children’s education,” Noh said. “Their access to social and economic capital is what fuels academic achievement.”

Highly educated immigrants are likely to invest in their children's education. They pay for tutoring and college-prep courses that help their children to succeed.

Eliza Noh said, “Besides being able to spend more money on their children’s curricular and extra-curricular activities, such as tutoring and academic clubs, middle-class parents can pass on their knowledge of how to be successful in academia, such as study skills, professional networking, and navigating educational institutions,” she said.

Noh also said that Asian-Americans perceive that education can help them overcome barriers in the labor market.

“They know they cannot rely on just their hard work and experience and ‘who they know’ in order to move up the ladder,” Noh said.

Statistics and Stereotypes

Asian-Americans sometimes have been called the “model minority.” But putting all Asian-Americans into one group contributes to a stereotype that all Asian-Americans are highly educated.

A 2010 report studied Asian-Americans in California — the U.S. state with the highest Asian population outside of Hawaii. It found that the idea that all Asian-Americans are highly educated is false.

The report said that some ethnic groups from Asia have problems in the United States.

In California, 45 percent of Hmong, 40 percent of Cambodians and Laotians, and one-fifth of Fijians had less than a high school education. The report also found that 20 percent of Pacific Islanders in the state eventually drop out of high school.

The report said that poverty and limited English proficiency increase the risk that students will drop out of high school.

Dora Mekouar reported this story for John Russell adapted her report for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

favor – v. to prefer (someone) especially in an unfair way : to show that you like or approve of (someone) more than others​

achievement – n. the state or condition of having achieved or accomplished something

preference n. an advantage that is given to some people or things and not to others

perceive – v. to notice or become aware of (something)

drop out phrasal verb to stop attending a school or university before you have completed your studies