The Remodel Minority Series: Rebranding the Model Minority Myth

Henry McCausland

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “myth” is “an unfounded or false notion.” However, in that case, should the model minority myth even be considered a myth? When reaching out to Professor erin Khuê Ninh, the associate professor and chair of the Asian American Studies department at UC Santa Barbara, she replied stating, “I would not be treating the model minority as a ‘myth,’ and in fact would be asking audience members to think about no longer using that term.” This statement was for a good reason, as when viewing generalized data and our own lives, the model minority myth seems more aptly labeled as a stereotype that significantly impacts the racialization of Asian Americans.

As stated by the report “Asian-American success and the pitfalls of generalization” published by Brookings, “relative to other racial and ethnic minorities, (Asian Americans) live in wealthier neighborhoods, have high marriage rates, high levels of educational achievement, and are successful in the labor market.” Though this can be attributed to numerous factors with one being the United States hyperselecting Asian Americans depending on their degrees and expertise in specialized positions and an emphasis on hard work and dedication to education rather than god-given skills, the data backing this claim in terms of educational achievement have received much attention. According to the United States Census Bureau’s publication “Educational Attainment in the United States: 2015,” though 54% of Asians 25 years and older held a bachelor’s degree or higher, only 36% of non-Hispanic Whites, 22% of blacks, and 15% of Hispanics held a bachelor’s degree or higher at the same age. And Asian Americans have also been shown to attend better schools on aggregate.

However, this generalized data is often dismissed, because as Professor erin Khuê Ninh stated in her presentation for the Asian American/Asian Research Institute (AAARI), “when people argue that the model minority is a myth, their go-to phrase is usually ‘disaggregate the data!’ … so the argument goes ‘break us up by ethnicity, and you’ll see that for many Asian Americans, that percentage is very misleading. They are not outperforming other racial groups at all.'” But they are when you take into consideration this slide curated by Professor erin Khuê Ninh, supported by Analysis of 2015 American Community Survey Microdata.

sourced from “Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities (Intro Excerpt Only)”

As per these charts, only six Asian American ethnicities, mostly composed of Southeast Asian refugees, (composing 14% of the Asian American population) have had a lower percentage of having a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to white Americans, with only four (composing 4% of the Asian American population) having a lower percentage of having a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to black Americans and one having a lower percentage of having a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to Latinx Americans.

As our lives and the data referenced above suggests, there is truth in the model minority myth. Thus, it is not apt to call it a myth anymore but rather a stereotype, something true of instances but not the truth itself despite its extensive and inexcusable impacts on marginalized communities.

The model minority stereotype, founded on the fear of forced return to internment camps after World War II, selective immigration policies, etc., has been used against other marginalized communities, excusing the role of racism in their struggles and perpetuating sentiments like anti-Blackness. The stereotype also harms Asian Americans greatly, subjecting them to extreme pressure to comply with its notions to the extent of becoming college imposters and placing them under a bamboo ceiling, limiting them from attaining leadership positions due to their label as weak, docile individuals. Moving forwards, we will be referring to what has previously been known as the model minority myth as the model minority stereotype to provide a more well-rounded perspective to help raise awareness of these impacts in a constructive fashion. Thank you so much for reading this article, and stay tuned for more articles regarding the model minority stereotype <3

As college-bound STEM students (on your end) and a Ph.D. college professor (on my end), we are living/breathing examples of the model minority. We are not unicorns; we are legion.

– Professor erin Khuê Ninh

Works Cited

Joo, Nathan, et al. “Asian-American Success and the Pitfalls of Generalization.” Brookings, Brookings, 9 Mar. 2022,

“Myth Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,

Ninh, erin Khuê. “Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities (Intro Excerpt Only).” YouTube, Asian American / Asian Research Institute, 21 Mar. 2022,

Ryan, Camille L., and Kurt Bauman. “Educational Attainment in the United States: 2015.”, United States Census Bureau, 16 Dec. 2021,