A cultural superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control help people from some cultures excel in school and business, write “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua and husband Jed Rubenfeld in The Triple Package. Their triple-threat cultures are: Cubans, East Asians, Indians, Jews, Lebanese, Mormons, Nigerians and Persians.
People in these groups believe their culture is exceptional, but as individuals they need to prove themselves, write Chua and Rubenfeld. These cultures cultivate self-discipline and impulse control.
The book has been criticized for ignoring the immigrant effect: Nigerians, Indians, Lebanese and Persians who make it to the U.S. tend to be educated, ambitious, relatively successful people. They’re so smart they figured out how to get here. Miami’s pre-Mariel Cubans also were more middle-class than average.
All this reminds me of Joel Kotkin’s 1994 book, Tribes: How Race, Religion and Identity Determine Success in the New Global Economy.
A new study looks at high-achieving children of low-income Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants who “lack middle-class cultural capital.” These families “use ethnicity as a resource to construct and support a strict ‘success frame’ that helps the poor and working class override their disadvantages.”
Chinese immigrant parents often are educated and speak English, said one of the study’s authors, UC-Irvine sociologist Jennifer Lee. However, Vietnamese immigrants’ children do well in school and careers even when their parents have little education or money.
That’s where expectations comes in – or what the paper calls, quoting its interview subjects, the understanding that “A is average and B is an Asian fail.”
Parents search for the best schools and lobby for their children to be placed in advanced classes. If they can’t afford tutoring, they turn to ethnic organizations and churches to provide a free or low-cost “shadow education.”
If success is measured by doing better than the previous generation, then Mexican-Americans are the most successful, Lee writes in Time.