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Mexican immigrants make more progress than much-touted Chinese, study says

"Tiger Mom" Amy Chua claimed recently that there's something special about Chinese immigrants, who often end up ahead economically and academically. But UCLA researchers say they had a head start and Mexican immigrants actually make more progress.
Lois M. Collins, Deseret News Modified: May 6, 2014 at 4:29 pm •  Published: May 7, 2014

"Tiger Mother" Amy Chua claimed in a recent book that there's something special about Chinese immigrants, who usually end up ahead of other newcomers both economically and academically. But researchers in the University of California system say Chinese immigrants have a head start and that when it comes to making progress, Mexican immigrants lead the pack.

Lead researcher Jennifer Lee of the University of California Irvine couches the question this way for Time magazine: "Who is more successful: a Mexican-American whose parents immigrated to the U.S. with less than an elementary school education, and who now works as a dental hygienist? Or a Chinese-American whose parents immigrated to the U.S. and earned Ph.D. degrees, and who now works as a doctor?"

Lee and University of California Los Angeles sociologist Min Zhou looked at second-generation Mexican-, Chinese- and Vietnamese-Americans whose folks immigrated to America. They say Mexican-Americans are the best-performing second generation because they start way behind other groups and do twice as well as their parents did on those economic and education measures. As a group, Mexican-Americans may not wind up as rich or educated as some Chinese-Americans do, but they have actually come much further, having started far behind.

Writes Slate's Mitch Moxley: "In a new book, The Triple Package, Chua and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, argue that some groups — namely Chinese, Jews, Cubans, and Nigerians — are more successful than others because they possess certain cultural traits that enable them to be," including a sense of cultural superiority, impulse control and insecurity. "They base their argument on an analysis of test scores, educational achievement, median household income, and other factors."

He continues, "The UC study, however, argues that it’s not any specific cultural trait that makes groups like Chinese-Americans more successful than others. Lee and Zhou say both Chinese-American and Mexican-American parents highly value education. Most parents do. But the reason Chinese-Americans get ahead is because they start ahead. Way ahead, in many cases."

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