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Deconstructing the model minority myth and how it contributes to the invisible minority reality in higher education research

Samuel D. Museus, University of Massachusetts Boston
Peter N. Kiang, University of Massachusetts Boston

Abstract

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are seldom the subjects of higher education research. This omission is evident in the finding that, over the past decade, approximately only 1% of articles published in five of the most widely read peer-reviewed academic journals in the field of higher education have given specific attention to Asian American or Pacific Islander college students. It has been argued that the exclusion of AAPIs from scholarly inquiry in postsecondary education is in part due to the pervasive influence of the model minority myth on contemporary thought about the AAPI population. The model minority stereotype is the notion that Asian Americans achieve universal and unparalleled academic and occupational success. Although this myth has been cited as one reason for the invisibility of AAPIs in higher education research, the absence of empirical knowledge prohibits learning about this group and helps perpetuate that stereotype, thereby forming a vicious cycle that can perpetuate ignorance and distorted perceptions of the realities that this population of college students faces. The authors suggest that the myth is associated with five key misconceptions, which are discussed in this chapter. The authors do not make claims about causality, but they believe that these misconceptions are inextricably intertwined with the model minority myth and that the demystification of each of these faulty assumptions is necessary to diminish the pervasive influence that the model minority stereotype has on contemporary thought about AAPIs. The authors also argue that the debunking of these misconceptions and the deconstruction of the model minority myth can aid researchers in moving beyond the exclusion of this population from postsecondary education research and toward an understanding of the realities that AAPI students face.

Suggested Citation

Museus, S. D., & Kiang, P. N. (2009). The model minority myth and how it contributes to the invisible minority reality in higher education research. In S. D. Museus (Ed.), Conducting research on Asian Americans in higher education: New Directions for Institutional Research (no. 142, pp. 5-15). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.