Health Care and the “Model Minority Myth”

There's a physical risk in believing the hype.

By Jamilah King Aug 24, 2010

Over at Tapped, Jamelle Bouie makes an astute observation about how that pesky model minority myth actually has physical risks. Building off of new research that warns against carelessly lumping all Asian Americans together, Bouie writes:

[Researchers] find that Asian Americans "face crucial disadvantages preventing them from receiving quality health care taken for granted by other, more culturally assimilated Americans." That we don’t notice those disadvantages owes itself to the prevalence of the "model minority" myth.

You can see this in other areas as well. While Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Americans tend to do well when compared to their white counterparts, the same can’t be said of Vietnamese, Pacific Islanders, and Cambodians, as well as Hmong and Laotians. Among Vietnamese, for example, per capita income is $23,080 — compared with just over $30,000 for whites — with an overall poverty rate of 13.3 percent, compared to 10.5 percent for whites. Likewise, only 13.3 percent of Cambodians and a scant 9.3 percent of Laotians have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to nearly 30 percent of whites.

Seth Freed Wessler and Channing Kennedy hinted at a similar sentiment last year in their Race and Recession coverage. In an interview, Shaw San Liu of San Francisco’s Chinese Progressive Association gives more insight into struggles facing low wage workers in the city’s Chinatown. Namely, that the community had a 30 percent unemployment rate even before the recession hit, and the economic downturn had forced many to stick to hazardous jobs in order to keep their health insurance.