[WaPo] Calling Asian Americans model minority glosses over crucial issues

May 18, 2015


Public Radio International

Public Radio International


Asians Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are the fastest growing racial group in the United States; their population is expected to double to more than 47 million by 2060. Yet the needs of these communities are rarely discussed,because AAPIs, in the aggregate, are also the highest-income and best-educated ethnic groups in the United States. A common perception is that they are the model minority: the doctors, techno wizards, and successful business owners.

The success isn’t, however, evenly distributed, and these communities face serious problems, just as other minority groups do. The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) often cites compelling data to make this case: Asian American and African American students have the highest rates of remedial coursework; one out of four Korean Americans go without health insurance; one of every three AAPIs is limited in English proficiency; and only 18 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders over the age of 25 hold a college degree.

The model minority label makes things worse for large sections of these communities, because their needs are often overlooked or misunderstood and then rarely addressed in government programs and by social-service organizations. Lack of disaggregated data perpetuates this label.