Asians are still a small minority—14.5 million (including about one million identified as part Asian) or 4.7 percent of the population—but their impact is vastly disproportionate to their numbers. Forty-four percent of Asian-American adults have a college degree or higher, as opposed to 24 percent of the general population. Asian men have median earnings 10 percent higher than non Asian men, and that of Asian women is 15 percent higher than non-Asian women. Forty-five percent of Asians are employed in professional or management jobs as opposed to 34 percent for the country as a whole, and the figure is no less than 60 percent for Asian Indians.
The Information Technology Association of America estimates that in the high-tech workforce Asians are represented at three times their proportion of the population. Asians are more likely than the American average to own homes rather than be renters. These successes are especially remarkable because no fewer than 69 percent of Asians are foreign-born, and immigrant groups have traditionally taken several generations to reach their full economic potential. Asians are vastly overrepresented at the best American universities. Although less than 5 percent of the population they account for the following percentages of the students at these universities: Harvard: 17 percent, Yale: 13 percent, Princeton: 12 percent, Columbia: 14 percent, Stanford: 25 percent.
In California, the state with the largest number of Asians, they made up 14 percent of the 2005 high school graduating class but 42 percent of the freshmen on the campuses of the University of California system.
At Berkeley, the most selective of all the campuses, the 2005 freshman class was an astonishing 48 percent Asian.
Asians are also the least likely of any racial or ethnic group to commit crimes. In every category, whether violent crime, white-collar crime, alcohol, or sex offenses, they are arrested at about one-quarter to one-third the rate of whites, who are the next most law-abiding group.
It would be a mistake, however, to paint all Asians with the same brush, as different nationalities can have distinctive profiles. For example, 40 percent of the manicurists in the United States are of Vietnamese origin and half the motel rooms in the country are owned by Asian Indians.
Chinese (24 percent of all Asians) and Indians (16 percent), are extremely successful, as are Japanese and Koreans. Filipinos (18 percent) are somewhat less so, while the Hmong face considerable difficulties. Hmong earn 30 percent less than the national average, and 60 percent drop out of high school.
In the Seattle public schools, 80 percent of Japanese-American students passed Washington state’s standardized math test for 10th-graders—the highest pass rate for any ethnic group. The group with the lowest pass rate—14 percent—was another “Asian/Pacific Islanders” category: Samoans.
On the whole, Asians have a well-deserved reputation for high achievement.