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Can affirmative action increase Asian-Americans’ representation in professional jobs?




Students walk across the campus of UC Berkeley
Students walk across the campus of UC Berkeley
Photo by Ryan Anderson via Flickr Creative Commons

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While Asian-Americans are largely represented in higher-education, they are significantly underrepresented in the managerial workforce.

That’s in part due to a phenomenon known as the “bamboo ceiling,” a term coined by Jane Hyun back in 2005 describing the invisible obstacle Asian-Americans face in the labor market despite outperforming other minorities and white people in education.

It’s also the topic of a forthcoming article in the Journal Ethnic and Racial Studies entitled “Revisiting the Asian second-generation advantage.” The study, conducted by three professors at Columbia University, found that Chinese, Indians, Filipinos, Vietnamese and Koreans are more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree than white Americans. Similarly, a Pew Research study in 2017 found 51% of Asian-Americans 25 years or older have a bachelor’s degree or more compared to 30% of all Americans in the same age group.

Yet, these numbers drop when Asian-Americans make their way into the labor market-- evidence of what the study identifies as an attainment gap. In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, two of the study authors argued that affirmative action could be beneficial for bridging Asian-Americans’ limits in the workforce, despite recent anti-affirmative action sentiment spotlighted by a Harvard lawsuit filed by Students for Fair Admission in 2014.

Larry discusses the study with two of its authors.

Guests:

Van C. Tran, assistant professor of sociology at Columbia University and lead author of the forthcoming article “Revisiting the Asian second-generation advantage” in the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies

Jennifer Lee, professor of sociology at Columbia University and co-author of the forthcoming article “Revisiting the Asian second-generation advantage” in the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies