Former equality tsar Trevor Phillips would like to know why “poor children of Chinese heritage outperform all other groups… In the US Asian Americans, who are fewer than 10 per cent of the local population, win more than half the places in New York’s top selective schools.” He thinks for too long political correctness has prevented policy makers from even asking these questions.
If he wants to know why poor Asian Americans do so well he should read this piece by Kay Hymowitz on Brooklyn’s Chinese pioneers. It looks at a very successful group of Chinese immigrants, the Fujianese, in Brooklyn.
This group is phenomenally successful. They arrive poor, “really poor, as in four-people-to-a-single-room, all-rice-diet, soda-can-collecting poor.” But they devote their lives to their children’s success. Hymowtiz looks at four reasons for this: a devotion to education; a married family with a ferocious work ethic; a belief they can succeed; and a close community.
Hymowitz says there is a “zealous focus on education. For Chinese immigrants, education for the next generation is close to a religion.”
Secondly, “they work like dogs. In New York City, the Chinese are more likely than any other ethnic group to live in dual-earning households.”
The father might work two jobs and the mothers are the ultimate ‘working mothers.’ Their hours are brutal: ten hours or more a day, six and often seven days a week in minimum wage jobs or exploitative jobs that still pay so are taken, as a job is a job.
The children, however, are not in ‘daycare’ cared for by other poor women. The children are cared for either by grandparents or other family members doing homework and chores around the shared accommodation.
Third, they also believe in the American dream. If you work hard you can succeed. They expect some discrimination but they are not signed up members of the victim agenda.
Crucially, the Fujianese family is based on stable marriages. “The Chinese boast the highest proportion of married-couple households among immigrant groups.” Divorce is never even considered as getting their child from their poor background into the American middle-class is their reason for living.
Individualism is not their thing and divorcing and splitting the already meagre assets are seen as the foolish venture that it is. There maybe a mistress around, but “the Chinese family, including husband and wife, is better seen as a working partnership, bound together by mutual necessity and some deep, generationally transmitted sense of loyalty and duty. There are probably very few “soulmates” in Brooklyn’s Chinatown. But lots of the kids of these families are graduating from high school and college.”
Finally, the Fujianese community is close knit. The parents may not bother to learn English or integrate but then they are not there to integrate into successful middle-class America – they want their children to do this. This is why they work every hour God sends and save money to put their children in tutoring classes to enter the most selective high-schools. It is all for the next generation.
“It’s no secret that mainstream American culture these days isn’t the best recipe for educational success. In Sunset Park, Chinese kids are part of a counterculture, reinforced daily by family members, by neighbours, by Chinese television shows, by local test-prep centres, and by more established Chinese residents. Shopkeepers might ask a child whether he has done his homework.”
So there we have it – educational success for this group at least is because these students hail from married families based in close-knit communities. The parents work incredibly hard to send their children to selective state secondary school. I would like to see Trevor Phillips sell this to his liberal friends.
Decades ago poor parents in Britain had these qualities in spades until their families, children and communities were devastated by the 1960s cultural revolution. Without a Damascene conversion to social conservatism by the liberal elite it is unlikely we will see any change soon.