What Is Career Success? A New Asian American Psychology of Working

Ming Che Tu, Sumie Okazaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Model minority stereotypes of Asian Americans as high educational and occupational achievers are perpetuated by conceptual and methodological issues in career development research that aggregate across Asian ethnicities and oversample high achievers. These issues render those marginalized, such as working-class immigrants with limited English proficiency, as well as their children, as invisible within research, practice, and policy. A new theoretical framework, entitled the Asian American Intergenerational Model of Psychology of Working (AAIM), questions the mainstream career development assumptions of linearity, stability, and upward mobility that reveal inherent classism. Building on the Psychology of Working Theory (Duffy et al., 2016); the AAIM broadens the scope and definition of work beyond career, and acknowledges the significance of structural and cultural forces on people’s work and life. An expanded qualitative analysis of interviews with 17 low-income, working-class, Chinese immigrant parents (Tu et al., 2019) provides an empirical illustration of the intergenerational and coethnic dynamics of vocational experiences central to the AAIM. The working-class immigrants relied on coethnic networks to secure employment within a narrow range of options, many straddling helplessly between arduous manual labor and family demands. Though they had immigrated primarily to provide a better future for their children, many parents struggled to participate meaningfully in their children’s development. These findings highlight the need to expand Asian American psychology of working to incorporate systems and social justice perspectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)673-688
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Asian american psychology
  • Model minority stereotypes
  • Psychology of working
  • Vocational psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'What Is Career Success? A New Asian American Psychology of Working'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this