Asian-American educational achievements: A Phenomenon in search of an explanation

Stanley Sue, Sumie Okazaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Considerable attention has been paid to the academic achievements of Asian Americans because there is convergent evidence that this population has attained high educational mobility. In trying to explain the achievement patterns, researchers have largely limited their investigations to one of two contrasting hypotheses involving (a) hereditary differences in intelligence between Asians and Whites and (b) Asian cultural values that promote educational endeavors. Research findings have cast serious doubt over the validity of the genetic hypothesis. Yet, there has been a failure to find strong empirical support for alternative hypothesis concerning cultural values. It is proposed, under the concept of relative functionalism, that Asian Americans perceive, and have experienced, restrictions in upward mobility in careers or jobs that are unrelated to education. Consequently, education assumes importance, above and beyond what can be predicted from cultural values. Research and policy implications of this view are noted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-920
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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