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Model minority, also overachieving minority or overrepresented minority refers to a minority ethnic, racial, or religious group whose members achieve a higher degree of success than the population average. It is most commonly applied to ethnic minorities. This success is typically measured in income, education, and related factors such as low crime rate and high family stability.

In the United States, the term is associated with Asian Americans, primarily Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean Americans.[citation needed]. In the Netherlands, the comparable status is primarily associated with Indo people also known as Indies Dutchmen or Dutch Indonesians, the largest minority group in the country.[1] [2] [3]

Generalized statistics are often cited to back up their model minority status such as high educational achievement and a high representation in white collar professions (jobs such as medicine, investment banking, management consulting, finance, engineering, and law).

A common misconception is that the affected communities usually hold pride in their labeling as the model minority. The model minority stereotype is considered detrimental to the Asian Pacific American (APA) community, because it is used to justify the exclusion of needy APA communities in the distribution of assistance programs, public and private, and understate or slight the achievements of APA individuals. Furthermore, the idea of the model minority pits minority groups against each other by implying that non-model groups are at fault for falling short of the model minority level of achievement and assimilation.

The model minority label relies on the aggregation of success indicators, hiding the plight of recent first-generation immigrants under the high success rate of more established Asian communities. While communities of Asian Americans that have been in the US for 3-4 generations are generally wealthier, immigrant communities of Asian Americans will experience great poverty.[4]:2[5]


In January 1966, the term "model minority" was coined in The New York Times magazine by sociologist William Petersen to describe Asian Americans as ethnic minorities who, despite marginalization, have achieved success in the United States. In his essay called "Success Story: Japanese American Style", he wrote that the Japanese cultures have strong work ethics and family values. Furthermore, he wrote that those values prevent them from becoming a "problem minority". A similar article about Chinese Americans was published in U.S. News and World Report in December 1966.[6][7]

In the 1980s, almost all major U.S. magazines and newspapers printed success stories of Asian Americans.[8]:222

In the 1970s and 1980s, many scholars challenged the model minority stereotype. B. Suzuki published "Education and the Socialization of Asian Americans: A Revisionist Analysis of the ‘Model Minority Thesis." In the paper, he disagrees with how the media is portraying Asian Americans. He explains the sociohistorical and the comptemporary social system, and how the Model Minority stereotype is myth.[4]:3

United States[]

Model minority stereotype[]

There has been a significant change in the perceptions of Asian Americans. In as little as 100 years of American history, stereotypes of East Asian Americans have changed to portraying a hard working and educated minority.[9]

Asian Americans are spoken of as a 'model minority' group, often compared in a racially divisive way, as the minority group that is able to be successful, while other minority groups are relatively not. The term Asian Americans (as a model minority) is used primarily to describe the largest groups of Asian Americans in the U.S. (Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Korean Americans).

An example of the Model Minority stereotype are phenomena, such as the high rates of educational attainment and economic success in the Indian American community. Pointing to generalized data, another argument for the Model Minority stereotype is generalized data such as from the U.S. Census Bureau, where the median household income of Asian Americans is $68,780, higher than the total population's $50,221.[10]

However, there are extreme ranges of income by ethnic group, with some Asian American ethnic groups at the poorest levels of income in the US. For example, Vietnamese Americans (regionally categorized as South East Asian) have same levels of income as Korean Americans (regionally categorized as East Asian). The problems with the Model Minority model are often due to regional generalizations of the vast numbers of ethnic groups, which each have vastly different histories and immigration patterns, which in turn impact the experience and ability of various ethnic groups to succeed in the US.

The Model Minority model also points to the percentage of Asian Americans at elite universities (elite university being roughly defined as a school in the Top 40 according to U.S. News & World Report.)[11] Model Minority proponents claim that while Asian Americans are only 5% of the U.S. population, they are over represented at all these schools.

Asian American students are concentrated in a very small percentage of institutions, in only 8 states (and half concentrated in California, New York and Texas).[12] Moreover, more Asian American students attend two-year community colleges (363,798 in 2000) than four-year public universities (354,564 in 2000) and this trend (of attending community college) is accelerating.[12] Logically, West coast academic institutions are amongst those that have the highest concentrations of Asian Americans.

Due to the impacts of the Model Minority stereotyope, unlike other minority serving institutions, Asian American Pacific Islander serving institutions (AAPISI) did not receive federal recognition until 2007, with the passage of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which federally recognized the existence of AAPISIs, making them eligible for federal funding and designation as minority serving institutions.[13]

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 2003 report Crime in the United States, Asian Americans have the lowest total arrest rates[14] despite a younger average age, and high family stability.[15]

Bachelor's Degree or Higher Educational Attainment[10][16][17][18][19][20][21]
Ethnicity Percent of Population
Taiwanese 74.1%
Indian 67.9%
Pakistani 60.9%
Jews 59%
Iranian 57.2%
Korean 50.8%
Chinese 50.2%
Filipino 47.9%
Japanese 43.7%
Bangladeshi 41.9%
Non-Hispanic White 30.7%
General US Population 28.0%
Vietnamese 26.1%
Black 16.5%
Cambodian 14.6%
Laotian 13.0%
Hmong 16.0%

Indian Americans[]

The model minority label has also recently included South Asian communities, in particular, Indian Americans, drawn from their disproportionate socioeconomic success.[22] For example, according to the census report on Asian Americans issued in 2004 by the U.S. census bureau, 64% of Indian Americans had a Bachelor's degree or higher, the highest for all national origin groups. In the same census, 60% of Indian-Americans had management or professional jobs, compared with a national average of 33%. Indian Americans, along with Japanese and Filipino Americans, have some of the lowest poverty rates for all communities, as well as one of the lowest rates of single parent households (7% versus the national average of 15%). Indian Americans also earn the highest average income out of all national origin groups. This has resulted in several stereotypes such as that of the "Indian Doctor".[23]


The success of Asian Americans as a group has occurred despite severe discrimination in the previous century, such as, prior to the 1950s, being stereotyped as cheap, poor, uneducated laborers.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some Americans feared that the western part of the US would be overrun by the "Yellow Peril," prompting initiatives to reduce immigration from Asia, and during World War II, anti-Japanese paranoia led to thousands of Japanese Americans being held in "internment camps" in the USA.

In addition, numerous Asian Americans were recent immigrants or their offspring, since immigration laws had limited Asian immigration prior to the mid 1960s.

In the mid 1900s, the Yellow Peril stereotype began to give way to recognition of the racial group's socioeconomic accomplishments.

The "Yellow Peril" stereotype towards East Asians soon broadened to include new South Asian immigrant groups under the terms Turban Tide and Hindoo Invasion, the first being a reference to the Sikh community and the latter being an archaic spelling of "Hindu", the religion of many South Asians.

Though not widely covered in mainstream media, various instances of racism have occurred throughout the country, a notable example being the well-known "macaca moment" involving George Allen and the Murder of Vincent Chin.

Media portrayal[]

Media coverage of the increasing success of Asian Americans as a group began in the 1960s, reporting high average test scores and marks in school, winning national spelling bees, and high levels of university attendance.

In 1988, Asian-American writer Philip K. Chiu identified the prevalence of the model minority stereotype in American media reports on Chinese Americans, and noted the contrast between that stereotype and what he observed as the reality of the Chinese American population, which was much more varied than the model minority stereotype in the media typically presented.[24]

I am fed up with being stereotyped as either a subhuman or superhuman creature. Certainly I am proud of the academic and economic successes of Chinese Americans . . . But it's important for people to realize that there is another side. . . . It is about time for the media to report on Chinese Americans the way they are. Some are superachievers, most are average citizens, and a few are criminals. They are only human--no more and no less.

Since the 1960s, and today, much media representation conveys Asian Americans only in terms of the Model Minority stereotype, which is a vast stereotype that dehumanizes the struggles and experiences of the extremely diverse Asian American population. Stereotypes and media images in turn then inform individuals of their possibilities and roles. As Oprah Winfrey said, "you can only become what you can see." When there are repeated and very specific types of images, stereotypes become internalized and reinforced by individuals.

Possible causes of Model Minority status[]


Self-selective immigration hypothesis[]

One possible cause of the higher performance of Asian Americans as a group is that they represent a small self-selected group of Asians. The relative difficulty of emigrating into the United States selected out those with less resources, motivation or ability.

Cultural differences[]

Cultural factors are thought to be part of the reason why Asian Americans are successful in the United States. East Asian societies themselves, in general, will often place more resources and emphasis on education. For example, the Chinese culture places great value on work ethic and the pursuit of knowledge. In traditional Chinese social stratification, scholars were ranked at the top — well above businessmen and landowners. This view of knowledge is evident in the modern lifestyle of many Asian American families, where the whole family puts emphasis on education and parents will make it their priority to push their children to study and achieve high marks. Similar cultural tendencies and values are found in South Asian families (such as Indian Americans), whose children similarly face extra pressure by parents to succeed in school and to achieve high-ranked jobs.

Asian American status in affirmative action[]

See also: Affirmative action bake sale

In the 1980s, several Ivy League schools alleged that they have limited admissions to Asian American students. Because of their high degree of success as a group and over-representation in many areas such as college admissions, most Asian Americans are not granted preferential treatment by affirmative action policies as are other minority groups. [citation needed]

Some schools choose lower-scoring applicants from other racial groups over Asian Americans in an attempt to promote racial diversity and to maintain some proportion to the society's racial demographics.[25][26]:165

Effects of the stereotype[]

According to Gordon H. Chang: The reference to Asian Americans as model minorities has to do with the work ethic, respect for elders, and high valuation of family and elders present in their culture.

The Model Minority stereotype also comes with an underlying notion of their apoliticality. Such a label one-dimensionalizes Asian Americans as having those traits and no other human qualities, such as vocal leadership, negative emotions, or intolerance towards oppression. Asian Americans are labeled as model minorities because they have not been as much of a "threat" to the U.S. political establishment as blacks, due to a smaller population and less political advocacy. This label seeks to suppress potential political activism through euphemistic stereotyping. (Reference: Asian Americans and Politics: Perspective, Experiences, Prospects by Gordon H. Chang.)

Effects of Model Minority stereotyping[]

Asian Americans may also be commonly stereotyped by the general public as being studious, intelligent, successful, elitist, brand name conscious, yet paradoxically passive.

As a result, higher and unreasonable expectations are often associated with Asian Americans. Some educators held Asian students to a higher standard.[8] This has the effect of those with learning disabilities being given less attention than they need. The connotations of being a model minority mean Asian students are often labeled with the unpopular "nerd" or "geek" image. They are often harassed or bullied due to this stereotype.[8]:223 Asians have been the target of bullying and racism from other races due to the racially divisive model minority stereotype.[26]:165

The higher expectations placed on East Asians as a result of the model minority stereotype carries over from academics to the workplace.[8]

The Model Minority stereotype is emotionally damaging to many Asian Americans, since there are unjustified expectations to live up to stereotypes of high achievement. Studies have shown that Asian Americans suffer from higher rates of stress, depression, mental illnesses, and suicide attempts in comparison to other races.[27] The pressures to achieve and live up to the model minority image have taken a tremendous mental and psychological toll on Asian Americans.[28]

Cultural references[]

  • The film Better Luck Tomorrow plays on the model minority stereotype by depicting a group of East Asian American teenagers who use their academic achievements to cover up criminal activities they are involved with.
  • In Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Harold is faced with the stereotype of the intelligent, academically successful and "nerdy" Asian male. Kumar, of South Asian descent and whose father and brother are both medical doctors, denies himself the prospect of going to medical school in defiance of the "Indian doctor" stereotype despite his considerable intellect and knowledge.


See also: Vietnamese people in Germany and Academic achievement among different groups in Germany

In Germany the academic success of the Vietnamese has been called "Das vietnamesische Wunder".[29] ("The Vietnamese Miracle"). A study revealed that in the districts of Lichtenberg and Marzahn, Vietnamese account for only 2% of the general population, but make up 17% of the prep school population.[30]


See also: Indo people


See also: Indos in the Dutch East Indies

At the end of the colonial era of the Dutch East Indies (Now: Indonesia) a community of about 300,000 Indo-Europeans (people of mixed Indonesian and European heritage) was registered as Dutch citizens. Indos formed the vast majority of the European legal class in the colony. When in the second half of the 20th century the independent Republic of Indonesia was established, practically all Europeans, including the Indo-Europeans,[31] were expelled from the newly established country.


From 1945 to 1949 the Indonesian National Revolution turned the former Dutch East Indies into an increasingly hostile environment for Indo-Europeans. Violence aimed towards Indo-Europeans during its early Bersiap period (1945-1946) accumulated in almost 20,000 deaths.[32] The Indo diaspora continued up to 1964 and resulted in the emigration of practically all Indo-Europeans from a turbulent young Indonesian nation. Even though most Indos had never set foot in the Netherlands before, this emigration was named repatriation.

Notwithstanding the fact that Indos in the former colony of the Dutch East Indies were officially part of the European legal class and were formally considered to be Dutch nationals, the Dutch government practiced an official policy of discouragement with regard to the post-WWII repatriation of Indos to the Netherlands.[33] While Dutch policy was in fact aimed at stimulating Indos to give up Dutch citizenship and opt for Indonesian citizenship, simultaneously the young Indonesian Republic implemented policies increasingly intolerant towards anything remotely reminiscent of Dutch influence. Even though actual aggression against Indos decreased after the extreme violence of the Bersiap period, all Dutch (language) institutions, schools and businesses were gradually eliminated and public discrimination and racism against Indos in the Indonesian job market continued. In the end 98% of the original Indo community repatriated to their distant fatherland in Europe.[34]


In the 1990s and early 21st century the Netherlands was confronted with ethnic tension in a now multi-cultural society. Ethnic tensions, rooted in the perceived lack of social integration and rise of crime rates of several ethnic minorities, climaxed with the murders of politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002 and film director Theo van Gogh in 2004. In 2006 statistics show that in Rotterdam, the second largest city in the country, close to 50% of the inhabitants were of foreign descent. The Indo community however is considered the best integrated ethnic and cultural minority in the Netherlands. Statistical data compiled by the CBS shows that Indos belong to the group with the lowest crime rates in the country.[35]

A CBS study of 1999 reveals that of all foreign born groups living in the Netherlands, only the Indos have an average income similar to that of citizens born in the Netherlands. Job participation in government, education and health care is similar as well. Another recent CBS study, among foreign born citizens and their children living in the Netherlands in 2005, shows that on average, Indos own the largest number of independent enterprises. A 2007 CBS study shows that already over 50% of first-generation Indos have married a native born Dutch person. A percentage that increased to 80% for the second generation.[36] One of the first and oldest Indo organisations that supported the integration of Indo repatriates into the Netherlands is the Pelita foundation.[37]

Although Indo repatriates,[38] being born overseas, are officially registered as Dutch citizens of foreign descent, their Eurasian background puts them in the Western sub-class instead of the Non-Western (Asian) sub-class.

Two factors are usually attributed to the essence of their apparently seamless assimilation into Dutch society: Dutch citizenship and the amount of 'Dutch cultural capital', in the form of school attainments and familiarity with the Dutch language and culture, that Indos already possessed before migrating to the Netherlands.[39]

New generations[]

Although third- and fourth-generation Indos[40] are part of a fairly large minority community in the Netherlands, the path of assimilation ventured by their parents and grandparents has left them with little knowledge of their actual roots and history, even to the point that they find it hard to recognise their own cultural features. Some Indos find it hard to grasp the concept of their Eurasian identity and either tend to disregard their Indonesian roots or on the contrary attempt to profile themselves as Indonesian.[41][42] In recent years however the reinvigorated search for roots and identity has also produced several academic studies.[43]

See also[]


  1. Zorlu, A., Hartig J. “Migration and immigrants: The case of the Netherlands” (Publisher: Tinbergen Institute, Amsterdam, 2001) P.4 [1]
  2. Beets, G et al. “De demografische geschiedenis van de Indische Nederlanders.” Report no. 64, 89. (Publisher: NiDi, The Hague, 2002) P.111-113
  3. Van Amersfoort, Hans "Immigration as a Colonial Inheritance: Post-Colonial Immigrants in the Netherlands, 1945-2002." in "Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 1469-9451"(Publisher: Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES), Volume 32, Issue 3, 2006) P.323–346 [2]
  4. 4.0 4.1 Li, Guofang; Lihshing Wang (July 10, 2008). Model Minority Myth Revisited: an Interdisciplinary Approach to Demystifying Asian American Educational Experiences, Information Age Publishing.
  5. Asian-Nation : Asian American History, Demographics, & Issues :: Socioeconomic Statistics & Demographics
  6. Article "Re-examining the Model Minority Myth: A Look at Southeast Asian Youth"
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Chen, Edith Wen-Chu; Grace J. Yoo (December 23, 2009). Encyclopedia of Asian American Issues Today, Volume 1, 222–223, ABC-CLIO.
  9. [3]
  10. 10.0 10.1;ACS_2009_1YR_G00_S0201PR:012;ACS_2009_1YR_G00_S0201T:012;ACS_2009_1YR_G00_S0201TPR:012&-_lang=en&-redoLog=false&-format=
  11. Asian American Baccalaureate - All Areas
  12. 12.0 12.1 (2008). Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders: Facts, not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight.
  13. Chen, Edith Wen-Chu (2010). Encyclopedia of Asian American Issues Today, 177, ABC-CLIO.
  14. CIUS 2003 Section IV - Persons Arrested (Document Pages 267-336)
  15. Affirmative Action Bake Sale
  16. "We the People: Asians in the United States" Census 2000 Special Reports, U.S. Census Bureau
  17. "Educational Attainment: 2000" Census 2000 Brief, U.S. Census Bureau
  18. Migration Information Source – Spotlight on the Iranian Foreign Born. URL accessed on 2010-02-15.
  19. An Overview of Socioeconomic Characteristics of the Iranian-American Community based on the 2000 U.S. Census.
  20. data from 2008 The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Lif US Religious Landscape Survey Educational Level by Religious Tradition
  21. Error on call to template:cite web: Parameters url and title must be specified
  22. Indian Americans: The New Model Minority, Forbes
  24. Philip K. Chiu, "ROSTRUM: The myth of the model minority." U.S. News and World Report. May 16, 1988. p. 7.
  25. includeonly>Mathews, Jay. "Learning to Stand Out Among the Standouts", The Washington Post, March 22, 2005. Retrieved on December 10, 2010.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Ancheta, Angelo N. (2006). Race, Rights, and the Asian American Experience, Rutgers University Press.
  27. "Mental Health and Depression in Asian Americans"
  28. "Push to achieve tied to suicide in Asian American women"
  29. Zeit: "Das vietnamesische Wunder (German)
  30. Von Berg, Stefan; Darnstädt, Thomas; Elger, Katrin; Hammerstein, Konstantin von; Hornig, Frank; Wensierski, Peter: "Politik der Vermeidung". Spiegel.
  31. Gouda, Frances ‘Dutch Culture Overseas: Colonial Practice in the Netherlands Indies 1900-1942.’ (Publisher: Equinox, 2008) ISBN 978-979-3780-62-7 Chapter 5, P.173 [4]
  32. Official bodycount of 3,600 and at least 16,000 people that disappeared. See: Bussemaker, H.Th. 'Bersiap! - Opstand in het paradijs.' (Walburg Pers, Zutphen, 2005) ISBN 90-5730-366-3 summarised in this educational paper: [5]
  33. Dossier Karpaan (NCRV TV channel, 16-10-1961) Original video footage (Spijtoptanten) on Dutch History Website. Retrieved 09-10-2011.
  34. (Dutch) Iburg, Nora “Van Pasar Malam tot I Love Indo, identiteitsconstructie en manifestatie door drie generaties Indische Nederlanders.” (Master thesis, Arnhem University, 2009, Ellessy Publishers, 2010) ISBN 978-90-8660-104-2 [6].
  35. Indo immigration as colonial inheritance: post colonial immigrants in the Netherlands, 1945-2002
  36. De Vries, Marlene. Indisch is een gevoel, de tweede en derde generatie Indische Nederlanders. (Amsterdam University Press, 2009) ISBN 978-90-8964-125-0 [7] [8] P.369
  37. Pelita founded and operated by Indos celebrated its 60 year jubilee in 2007.[9]
  38. The Dutch census protocol administered by the CBS registers first-generation Indo repatriates(emigrants with Dutch roots), as well as their children, as foreign born citizens of the Netherlands (Dutch: Allochtoon). [10]
  39. Van Amersfoort, Hans "Immigration as a Colonial Inheritance: Post-Colonial Immigrants in the Netherlands, 1945-2002." in "Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 1469-9451"(Publisher: Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES), Volume 32, Issue 3, 2006) P.323–346 [11]
  40. Note: The academic definition in sociological studies often used to determine first-generation Indos: Indo repatriates that could consciousnessly make the decision to immigrate. As off age 12.
  41. Crul, Lindo and Pang. ‘Culture, Structure and Beyond, Changing identities and social positions of immigrants and their children.’ (Het Spinhuis Publishers, 1999) ISBN 90-5589-173-8 p.37
  42. (Dutch) Dutch third-generation Indo website
  43. Recent academic studies in the Netherlands include: Boersma, Amis, Agung. Indovation, de Indische identiteit van de derde generatie. (Master thesis, Leiden University, Faculty Languages and cultures of South East Asia and Oceania, Leiden, 2003) [12] ; De Vries, Marlene. Indisch is een gevoel, de tweede en derde generatie Indische Nederlanders. (Amsterdam University Press, 2009) ISBN 978-90-8964-125-0 [13] ; Vos, Kirsten Indie Tabe, Opvattingen in kranten van Indische Nederlanders in Indonesië over de repatriëring (Master Thesis Media and Journalism, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Faculty of history and art, The Hague, 2007) [14] Radio interview with K.Vos ; Iburg, Nora “Van Pasar Malam tot I Love Indo, identiteitsconstructie en manifestatie door drie generaties Indische Nederlanders.” (Master thesis, Arnhem University, 2009, Ellessy Publishers, 2010) ISBN 978-90-8660-104-2 [15].(Dutch)
  • Espiritu, Yen Le (1996). Asian American Women and Men: Labor, Laws, and Love.
  • Clark, E. A., & Hanisee, J. (1982). Intellectual and adaptive performance of Asian children in adoptive American settings. Developmental Psychology, 18, 595-599.
  • Frydman, M., & Lynn, R. (1989). The intelligence of Korean children adopted in Belgium. Personality and Individual Differences, 12, 1323-1325.


  • Ancheta, Angelo N. (2006). Race, Rights, and the Asian American Experience. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-3902-1.
  • Chen, Edith Wen-Chu; Grace J. Yoo (December 23, 2009). Encyclopedia of Asian American Issues Today, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 0-313-34749-2.
  • Li, Guofang; Lihshing Wang (July 10, 2008). Model Minority Myth Revisited: an Interdisciplinary Approach to Demystifying Asian American Educational Experiences. Information Age Publishing. ISBN 978-1-59311-951-5.
  • Marger, Martin N. (2009). Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives, 8th Edition. Cengage Brain. ISBN 0-495-50436-X.
  • Rothenberg, Paula S. (2006). Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study, 7th edition. Macmillan. ISBN 0-7167-6148-3.
  • Zhou Min and Carl L. Bankston III. (1998) "Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States". Russell Sage Foundation

External links[]

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