Cultural Practices and the Academic Achievement of Minority Youth: An Examination of Strategies of Action

Lulu Chen, University of Michigan

The paradigmatic cultural explanation for the high academic success of Asian Americans is that their culture emphasizes hard work and places high academic expectations on its youth. In contrast, black youth are mired in a dire “culture of poverty” and as a result have developed an oppositional culture to mainstream values on education. But the oppositional culture hypothesis does not stand empirical testing, as black youth also have a strong school orientation. Herein lies a paradox: if both Asian youth, who are touted to be “model minorities,” and black youth, who are believed to espouse “oppositional culture,” alike have strong positive values, the mechanism between race and achievement does not appear to be beliefs/values but perhaps the translation of these values into practice. I argue that the key mechanism governing the relationship between their academic expectations and the academic achievement is the enrollment in “better” schools.

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Presented in Session 151: Race and Socioeconomic Status