Asian-American students outperform other racial or ethnic groups in math and science courses, according to a new study of 367 10th grade students in the Philadelphia area.
The study, published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, claims to be “the first study to examine math and science attitudes and achievement at the intersection of gender and ethnicity across four major ethnic groups,” including whites, Asian-Americans, Latinos and African-Americans.
“Asian-American male adolescents consistently demonstrated the highest achievement compared to other adolescents, mirroring the ‘model minority’ stereotype,” the researchers wrote. “In contrast, the underachievement of Latino and African-American males is a persistent and troubling trend.”
Despite surveys indicating that Asian-Americans perform better in math and science, Professor Nicole Else-Quest of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the lead author of the study, doesn’t want the data to further the “model minority” perception about Asian-Americans.
“I think that stereotype is harmful for everyone, whether benevolent or not,” she said. “They put us in boxes or restrict us in some way. When we talk about Asian-Americans, we have to recognize it’s a tremendously diverse population with a variety of cultures and varying levels of status and language proficiency.”
Even though women continue to be under-represented in math and science related careers, the study found that male and female students earned similar grades in math and science.
The study also found that male students of all ethnicities reported a greater perception of their abilities in math, while female students associated greater value to science-related courses.
"Despite gender similarities in math and science achievement, female adolescents tend to believe their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics abilities are just not as strong as those of their male classmates," said Else-Quest.
Else-Quest said the next goal of the three-year study is to figure out the role of the parents in forming perceptions about math and science.