The numbers also vary widely across the Hispanic and Latino populations: nearly 61 percent without a diploma for Mexicans, compared with about 7 percent for Venezuelans.
About 12 percent of whites did not have a high school degree, by comparison.
Despite such large discrepancies among different ethnic groups, Asians are still widely seen as high-achieving students who are a shoo-in for Ivy League schools. Because of this, issues such as affirmative action—for which Asians are often left out because they aren’t seen as a minority in education—continue to be a sore subject.
Minorities in higher education scored a big win in 1965 when the federal government established the Higher Education Act, which gave federal funding to minority-serving institutions. But institutions with a large population of Asians weren’t included. Asian-serving institutions weren’t federally recognized—or eligible for funding—until 2007.
To be fair, the federal government has been noticing. The AANAPISI federal program provides funding specifically to serve low-income ethnic groups in this population.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said that disaggregation for this group is vital, and the Education Department earlier this month put out a request for educational institutions to share information about how they separate the demographic data.
But it’s still a long way to go to fix mainstream society’s perception of the demographic, and also to fully realize the burden that the nearly 50-year-old label has imposed on all minorities—not just Asians.
Just as Asians are stereotyped as math whizzes and quiet kids, blacks and Hispanic are often typecast as students who struggle in school. But diving deeper into the data proves all of these stereotypes wrong. Some groups of Asians tend to do better in school, and so do groups within the black and Hispanic populations. Likewise, just as some black and Hispanic students struggle in school, so do Asians.
As minority groups continue to grow at a faster rate, understanding the root of the cause for the disparity between the numbers and the institutional implications of them becomes more important.
“Educators need to be educated about who their students are and how that’s changing and how this is kind of the future. These are the 21st-century students, and it’s not going to change back,” Teranishi said.