Many people believe that the apparent discrimination against Asian Americans (Chart 1) can be explained by factors other than discrimination. Below are some frequently asked questions and responses in this regard. Please draw your own conclusions.

1. Could the low odds for Asian Americans to be promoted to managerial positions be due to the lack of seniority in the work force?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics*, Asians Americans have on average greater seniority than Hispanics, although Hispanics enjoy a much higher chance of being promoted to managerial positions. Click to enlarge


2. Many managers have business degrees. Asian Americans tend to get engineering and science degrees. Could that be why there are so few Asian Americans at the managerial level?

The percentage of Asian Americans with business degrees is 85% HIGHER than the national average. Although many of us have engineering or science degrees, this does not translate into fewer business degrees. This is because we are relatively few in fields such as English, history, psychology, liberal arts, and the humanities in general. Indeed, Asian Americans represent the highest percentage of all people with MBAs, and the second highest percentage of people with either a bachelors or doctoral degree in business. See Table 1 below.

Bachelor’s Degrees (business):
Master’s Degrees (business):
Doctor’s Degrees (business):

The above table shows that the % of AsAm getting business degree is 10% higher than that of national average, Note, however the % of AsAm having a bachelor’s and higher degree is 75% higher than that of the national average; the two effects combine to mean that the % of AsAm having a business degree is actually 85% than that of the national average.

3. The average income of Asian Americans is higher than that of every other race or group except Caucasians. Is that proof positive that Asian Americans are not being discriminated against?

Income is tightly coupled to educational attainment according to the Census of 2000. If Asian American workers were paid the average national salary according to their educational attainment, the average Asian American income would be about 15% HIGHER than the average Caucasian income. This is because Asian Americans have on average much higher educational attainment. (See Chart 2) However, in reality, the income of the average Asian American is LOWER than that of the average Caucasian. See Table 2 for income calculations.

4. The average Asian American HOUSEHOLD income is indeed the highest of the nation. So is that proof positive that Asian Americans are not discrimination against?

Asian American HOUSEHOLD income should be even higher for the following reasons:

“Asians nationally have the highest household incomes… due to larger households with more earners. …Both sexes [of Asian Americans] earn less than Whites when education is taken into account… Asians have lower per capita incomes than whites.” Visit: (Arthur Hu is an Asian Week columnist and MIT-educated engineer).

5. Asian Americans are praised as the “Model Minority.” Why would anyone want to discriminate against us?

A hundred and forty-four years after the founding fathers declared “All men are created equal,” women were still not allowed to vote. Consider who those White women were. They were the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of the White men in power. Even after so-called ‘‘winning suffrage’, women didn’t really enjoy equal opportunity. They won equal opportunity only after they have established their own GROUP political clout through organizations like NOW, Emily’s List, and so on. Power never yields, unless under demand.

6. How about the cultural differences obvious in so many Asian Americans? Asian Americans may be underrepresented in managerial positions because we just don’t have sufficient managerial ambition and ability, language skills, or the right sense of humor.

Recall that “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” So the cultural difference between men and women is not only large but possibly intrinsic. But that has not prevented women from becoming leaders nowadays. Think Sandra Day O’Connor, Carly Fiorina, Diane Feinstein, Hillary Clinton, Condi Rice, Madeleine Albright, Meg Whitman, and Donna Shalala.

When discrimination against women was rampant, women were thought to have less managerial ambition, ability, and communication skills, and to lack a sense of humor. At the time, not only did most men believe in this stereotyped image of women, but so did many women themselves. That is the most insidious aspect of prejudice. The strong and powerful can get the weak and powerless to doubt themselves!

In 1965, Executive Order 11246 was issued and subsequently enforced by the Labor Department in order to give women a fair chance at becoming managers. Women rose to the challenge. The same will be true for Asian Americans.

7. Aren’t Asian Americans happy in their workplace? Doesn’t this show that they are not being discriminated against?

The EEOC engaged the Gallup Poll to do a national survey of workers’ perception of discrimination at work. The Gallup Poll announced that Asian Americans have the highest percentage of workers among all races who perceive that they are being discriminated at work.

8. Surely the next generation will not face the same discrimination as this generation! So why not just be patient and wait?

The next generation doesn’t arrive all of a sudden. Time flows continuously. Let’s look at our rate of progress for the period of 6 years from 1995 to 2001. See Chart 3, which is based on the glass ceiling chart you saw earlier (Chart 1). At a 0.5% per year improvement rate in private industries, a 0.75% improvement rate in universities, and a 1% rate in the federal government, AsAms will reach the current national average chance of being promoted to the managerial class in another 75 years! Equal opportunity in about 3 more generations!

Look at what is happening with Hispanics and women. They have less then half the distance to climb to equality opportunity than Asian Americans and are climbing at twice our rate of improvement. See how having GROUP political clout can make a difference?

9. Has 80-20 manipulated statistics? Why focus on the three areas of private industries, universities and the Federal government? Why not look at the picture for all workers?

We present those 3 areas because reliable data (EEO-1, OPM and NCES data) are available. According to the 2000 Census, when the entire civilian workforce is taken into consideration, Asian Americans still have the lowest odds to get into management.

Category Ratio to the national average
All 1.00
White 1.0599
Hispanics 0.862
Black 0.765
Women 0.730
Asian Pacific Islanders 0.703

EEO-1 Categories, Data using US Census: total civilian workforce (tabulation)

10. I still can’t believe it! Why would American institutions want to be in cahoots with our government to discriminate against us?

The end result we face today is at least partially our own fault.

America is a great country and has one of the best political systems. However, all political systems are run by human beings, and human beings are full of frailties. The most common frailty is that human beings tend to accommodate the strong and step on the weak.

The initial prejudice against Asian Americans may be caused by the color of our skin, our national origins, and cultural differences. However, the continuation of the very strong discrimination and inequity is at least partly our own fault. While other races and groups organize in order to have the political clout to punish any institution or politician that perpetuates or commits unfairness against them, Asian Americans remain woefully self- or family-centered, ignoring the dire need for Asian American GROUP political clout.

Fellow Americans, open up your pocketbook and give to 80-20. Our effort to win equal opportunity for ALL is a patriotic act to help make America “a more perfect Union.”