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100 Nw. U. L. Rev. 331 (2006)
Testing the Model Minority Myth

handle is hein.journals/illlr100 and id is 349 raw text is: Copyright 2006 by Northwestern University School of Law          Printed in U.S.A.
Northwestern University Law  Review                              Vol. 100, No. I
Miranda Oshige McGowan* & James Lindgren**
The stereotype of Asian Americans as a Model Minority appears
frequently in the popular press and in public and scholarly debates about af-
firmative action, immigration, and education. The model minority stereo-
type may be summarized as the belief that Asian Americans, through their
hard work, intelligence, and emphasis on education and achievement, have
been successful in American society.' As critiqued in the scholarly litera-
ture, however, this positive image of Asian Americans as a model minority
conceals a more sinister core of beliefs about Asian Americans and other
racial minorities in America: a view of Asian Americans as foreign and
unpatriotic; a belief that there is little racial discrimination in America; a
feeling that racial minorities have themselves to blame for persistent pov-
erty and lags in educational and professional attainment; a hostility to for-
eigners, immigrants, and immigration; and a hostility to government
programs to increase opportunities for Asian Americans and other ethnic
It is surely true that some people have positive views of Asian Ameri-
cans as smart and hard working, and some people have negative views of
Asian Americans as foreign and threatening. But is it true that the same
people tend to hold both views? It would indeed be worrisome if those who
thought Asian Americans were smart and hard working tended to be hostile
to people of Asian heritage, immigrants, and other minorities. Does the
model minority stereotype really have both a positive and a negative side
such that negative views inhere in the positive ones (as in the Yellow
Peril)? Or, instead, do the same people who think Asian Americans are
smart or hard working tend to like Asian Americans, immigrants, and mi-
norities in general, and support programs that benefit them?
Professor of Law, University of San Diego Law School. B.A., University of California at Berke-
ley; J.D., Stanford University. For ideas or comments, the Authors would like to thank Mark Ramseyer,
Deborah Merritt, Frank Wu, Mark Kelman, and the participants in faculty workshops at the University
of Minnesota, Northwestern University, and the University of San Diego.
Benjamin Mazur Research Professor, Northwestern University; Director, Demography of Diver-
sity Project, Northwestern University. B.A., Yale University; J.D., University of Chicago.
I Pat K. Chew, Asian Americans: The Reticent Minority and Their Paradoxes, 36 WM. & MARY
L. REV. 1, 24 (1994).
2 See infra Part II.

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