arthur sakamoto discusses the sociology of asian americans

The “Half-Hour of Heterodoxy Podcast,” run by orgtheory reader and guest blogger Chris Martin, interviewed Texas A&M sociologist Arthur Sakamoto. The topic is the diversity of Asian Americans. Sakamoto suggests that scholars are over-estimating the inequality of Asian America. For example, he argues that basic statistics on Asian American status attainment overstate poverty and non-completion of school. One example he offers is that some Asian Americans, such as Laotians, come from nations with minimal or no–high schools. So when you lump together 1st and 2nd generation people, you get some really low numbers.

The podcast is fascinating and worth listening to. Here, I’ll conclude with a thought about why researchers might trend toward reporting low-status attainment for Asian Americans. I think the main issue is the model minority myth, which basically says that Asian Americans have un-problematically assimilated into American society. People might use high educational attainment or (modestly) high income to over look anti-Asian or anti-immigrant racism, glass ceilings, and other challenges. This is a valid point, but that doesn’t mean we can’t develop a more accurate view of Asian Americans that recognizes both a history of anti-Asian racism and the fact that many groups have done relatively well in terms of conventional measures of SES.

Another issue is sociology’s preference for studying low status people in contrast to higher status people. Considering the very small number of papers on Asian Americans in our top 2-3 journals, my hypothesis is that it would be even harder to publish in those venues by focusing on populations that do relatively well. It’s not impossible of course, but harder than it might otherwise be.


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Written by fabiorojas

May 30, 2018 at 5:10 pm

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  1. Thanks for the shoutout. I also interviewed Arthur in an earlier episode, which you can find here or through a podcast feed:

    In that episode he talks about how he and his graduate students have found it hard to publish articles that go against the grain. There are some quotes from the interview on that page, and Arthur has a comment in the comments section about this paper:

    When I published my PLOS ONE article on Asian income under-estimation by laypeople, I got a lot of criticism from the reviewers because I wasn’t focused on minority disadvantage. Arthur mentioned in another interview that he has seen people move from studying Asian Americans to studying other minorities because sociologists aren’t interested in reading about a minority group that is doing well.

    Liked by 1 person


    May 30, 2018 at 6:57 pm

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