Model Minority

Model Minority

The New Media for Asian Americans

Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965

  • Created 7 categories of preferred immigrants
  • Reforms allowed more Asian immigrants into the United States

Preference for Professionals

  • Created a filter to admit immigrants with prior, high-level skills and knowledge
  • Many new immigrants had the “cultural capital” to facilitate upward economic mobility
  • May have access to financial resources to achieve some economic success and security

Problems with the Model Minority

  • Common for immigrants with professional training to accept lower level jobs in the US (downward mobility following immigration)
  • Asian Americans labeled as the “model minority”
  • The Problems
    • Assumes success among all Asian Americans
    • Model minority idea is implicitly critical of other minorities for not being able to achieve success
  • Not all Asian Americans achieve the same success

How did the model minority come to be attached to Asian-Americans?

  1. Media Influences
    1. Emphasis is placed on the examples of rags to riches
    2. Inspirational stories failed to address the privileged background of those who achieved financial success
    3. Many lacked the resources but had the class background, education and social connections to facilitate upward mobility
  2. Overlooking the Preference for Professionals
    1. Elite educational credentials increases employment opportunities
    2. Very few examples of those with “humble” beginnings making it to the top of the corporate ladder
    3. The few minorities in positions of corporate power generally come from upper class backgrounds
  3. Misleading Census Data
    1. When census data from all groups are combined, distinctions among different groups of Asian Americans are blurred
    2. Incomes follow a “bimodal” pattern of concentration at top and bottom
    3. Averaging of incomes hides poverty in the Asian American community
  4. Naive View of Culture and Mobility
    1. Cultural diversity among Asian Americans is masked
    2. Which set of values is “responsible” for success?
      1. Not all Asians share the same set of cultural values
    3. Hides pre-existing structures of support
    4. Hides pre-existing structural barriers to success
  5. Used to Criticize Other Minority Groups
    1. Hides structural discrimination
      1. “If they can do it, why can’t you?”
    2. The model minority stereotype suggests that problems of poverty result from the personal traits of the disadvantaged

Myth Busting Model Minority Asian American Stereotypes

Confronting Prejudice and Discrimination

  • The model minority stereotype make society less sensitive to problems within Asian American community including poverty, social disorganization, and discrimination
  • While Asian Americans have made significant economic progress in the United States, there are still significant barriers imposed by stereotypes and negative attitudes

Impact on Asian Americans in the Media

  • Asian Americans are under-represented and mis-represented in mainstream media
  • This further perpetuates the stereotype of the model minority
  • Asian Americans still have a difficult time getting exposure in mainstream media and struggle in the media industry

Asian Americans have found a new medium to express themselves.


  • YouTube has allowed Asian Americans to express themselves
  • Has allowed Asian Americans to start a career in media
  • Many YouTube celebrities have gained national attention
  • Asian Americans have been at the forefront of this revolution in online media
  • According to Pew, Asian Americans are the largest minority group to utilize social media

Successful Asian Americans on YouTube

Wong Fu Productions

Wong Fu Productions started at the University of California, San Diego. They have over 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube. Many of their followers are young Asian-Americans who say they cannot find accurate representations of themselves in mainstream media.


JustKiddingFilms posts a new video each week and there are many portrayals of Asian Americans in each video. Each video tries to debunk some stereotype or has a moral message at the end of it.

Ryan Higa

Ryan Higa started making videos in Hawaii during 2006 and has since launched into international stardom. One of his most viewed videos is below with over 36 millions views.


Kevin Wu decided to turn to YouTube to express his feelings about subjects that he couldn’t express to others. His is well recognized on the YouTube community. The video below talks about Asian stereotypes.

Natalie Tran

Natalie Tran is one of the most popular YouTube artist in Australia. She has over 1.2 million subscribers and her skits are highly entertaining.

Jason Chen

Jason Chen quit his day job to pursue his dream of a music career. He is now a full time music artist on YouTube. He has various covers and originals that has attracted many viewers and listeners. He an independent artist.

There is hope for Asian Americans who are looking to be in media. There are alternatives to gaining recognition now with the introduction of the Internet. The Internet has eliminated barriers that prevent Asian Americans from being in media. Despite these barriers to success in media, Asian Americans should not be discouraged to pursue their dreams. Asian Americans may seem like they are the model minority but that stereotype hides a lot of problems affecting the community. The more this is talked about the more awareness that can be brought to the attention of leaders that can create change.


Glass Ceiling & Asian American: The New Face of Workplace Barriers by Deborah Woo

Sociology 3AC – Principles of Sociology: American Cultures – Professor Mary Kelsey – University of California, Berkeley


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