WASHINGTON -- Positive stereotypes about Asian Americans are rooted in reality: They are more educated, wealthier and value work, marriage and family more than Americans as a whole, according to a Pew Research report out Tuesday.
The study, which includes a survey of 3,511 Asians, shows that more than 60% of recent Asian immigrants have at least a college degree. Many work in high-paying fields such as science, engineering, medicine and finance. "These are not the tired, poor huddled masses of that inscription on the Statue of Liberty," says Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center. "Recent Asian arrivals are the most highly educated ... immigrants in U.S. history."
The USA's 18.2 million Asians are the fastest-growing racial group and have surpassed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants. They represent 6% of the population.
The survey says Asian Americans are more satisfied with their lives, personal finances and the general direction of the country than Americans as a whole.
Indians have the highest share of college-educated and the highest median household income ($88,000) among the largest Asian-American groups. Asians as a whole have a median household income of $66,000 (half make more, half less) compared with the U.S. median of $49,800.
The telephone survey includes large enough samples of the six largest U.S. Asian groups (Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese) to pinpoint differences among them.
"This is the first time anyone has been able to develop this level of detail about the Asian-American community and about the differences between different sets of populations," says Neera Tanden, an Indian American who is president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank.
Not all Asian groups are prosperous. Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese, many who came to the USA as refugees, have a higher poverty rate than Americans in general.
All groups value marriage, family and hard work more than the U.S. population as a whole.
"If that's a stereotype that people have assigned to this group, believe me, that's a stereotype this group has embraced," Taylor says. "It stands out."
More than half say a successful marriage is one of the most important things in life vs. 34% of all Americans; two-thirds say being a good parent is right up there, too, vs. 50% for the country.
"One aspect that some people in the community may be concerned about is that the survey will in some sense reinforce the stereotype of 'They work hard, they're highly educated,' " says Benjamin Wu, vice chairman of the U.S.-Asia Institute, a group that works with Congress to help strengthen relationships with Asia.
"We know in some (Asian) communities, that's not the case," he says. Many Asian immigrants do not come on a student visa and need housing assistance, Wu says.
Tanden is struck by the fact that even though Indian Americans are overwhelmingly Democrats, two Indians in high U.S. political offices are both Republican - Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Hailey.
"Asians have a much more positive attitude toward government" than the country as a whole, Tanden says. "That may be in part because many Asians come from countries where government does not work nearly as properly or on behalf of the people."
•Asians are more likely to be married and to live in a multigenerational household. They are less likely to be born to an unwed mother.
•Among Asians, Japanese and Filipino are most accepting of interracial and intergroup marriages. From 2008-10, 55% of Japanese newlyweds married non-Asians.
•Koreans are most likely to say that discrimination against them is a major problem and half say they don't get along very well with blacks. There has been a history of tension between blacks and Korean store owners who come in to their neighborhoods.
•Almost 40% says parents of Asian origin put too much pressure on their kids to do well in school.
"The best and the brightest in the world are coming to the United States," Tanden says. "The report is a testament to the promise of America and the promise of the American dream."