Students At Elite Universities Also View Asians As The Model Minority

Jerry Park, Ph.D. Associate professor of sociology Affiliate Fellow, Institute for Studies on Religion Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences

Dr. Jerry Park Interview with:
Jerry Park, Ph.D.
Associate professor of sociology
Affiliate Fellow, Institute for Studies on Religion
Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Park: Research has shown that media representations of Asian Americans tend stereotype them as a “model minority.” The implied message in those media-based stereotypes is that non-Asian American minorities must not be working hard enough to achieve the same upward mobility levels of Asian Americans.

So we wanted to know
1) whether these stereotypes inhabit the minds of college students and
2) whether those stereotypes are associated with beliefs about racial inequality.

Using data on a sample of white college students at very selective universities (e.g. Columbia, Northwestern, Rice, Stanford) we found that these students tended to rate Asian Americans (as a group) as more competent than Blacks or Latinos. Then we analyzed whether there was a relationship between this stereotype and attitudes that read: “Many [Blacks/ Latinos] have only themselves to blame for not doing better in life. If they tried harder they would do better.” We found that most students disagree with this statement moderately; however when we account for their beliefs about Asian American competence, their responses shift more toward agreement. This confirmed for us that this model minority stereotype is not just in the media but in the thinking of college students as well. And it’s associated with beliefs about other minority groups who are perceived as not working hard enough (as opposed to recognizing the realities of systemic discrimination).

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Park: Clinicians might reflect on whether they too tend to think of patients with Asian heritage as more competent than other minority patients. They might also reflect on whether this positive bias toward one group is linked to the kind of communication (verbal and non-verbal) they have with patients of different backgrounds and whether their prescribed treatments assume competence for patients identified as Asian and less competence for non-Asian minority patients.

Patients might reflect on whether they presume greater competence for Asian-identified physicians and nurses compared to non-Asian minority medical professionals. Recognizing this personal bias might help change the way they respond to medical professionals.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Park: Future research might examine specific outcomes in patient healthcare and whether stereotypes that favor one minority over another have adverse effects on communication from white professionals with minority patients and vice versa (white patients and minority professionals). It’s important to ask these questions independently – today it’s inappropriate to directly rate groups against one another; determining these relationships requires asking about the respondent’s beliefs about that group in isolation from others. Then compare these independent perceptions together.


Z. Park, B. C. Martinez, R. Cobb, J. J. Park, E. R. Wong. Exceptional Outgroup Stereotypes and White Racial Inequality Attitudes toward Asian Americans. Social Psychology Quarterly, 2015; 78 (4): 399 DOI:10.1177/0190272515606433

Jerry Park, Ph.D. (2016). Students At Elite Universities Also View Asians As The Model Minority

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