Thursday, November 08, 2012

Asians are the new Jews: political edition

Bloomberg has the scoop:

Romney won among all voters making more than $100,000 a year by a margin of 54-44. Asian-Americans happen to be the highest-earning group in the U.S., out-earning whites, and they generally place enormous emphasis on family. A perfect fit for Republicans, no? 
No. Asians voted for Obama by 73-26; they were more Democratic than Hispanics.
Sounds familiar! How, then, do we explain it? Here's how Bloomberg does:
The GOP is overwhelmingly white and insistently, at times militantly, Christian. Democrats, by contrast, are multiracial with a laissez faire attitude toward religion and spirituality. If you were a black-haired Buddhist from Taipei or a brown-skinned Hindu from Bangalore, which party would instinctively seem more comfortable?
I, black-haired, white-skinned, and third-or-fourth generation American, hear that. But I think there's more to it. Which candidate represented meritocracy? Romney and his side talked the talk, whereas Obama & Co walk the walk. So there was the Obama talking about helping the unfortunate - the not-so-bootstrap words. But there was also the Obama existing as a living example of ascent via education. That's a narrative that'll resonate more than, say, what Romney had to offer by way of noblesse-oblige. And for the record (the vaunted WWPD record, whatever that is), no, not all Asian-Americans are meritocratic Amy Chuas. But the question here is really about why high-earning Asian-Americans voted as they did.

And this isn't even particularly about the fact that Obama looks ethnically ambiguous (or unambiguously non-white, depending who's asking), whereas Romney is probably the whitest-looking person since Ward Cleaver, spray-tan notwithstanding. It's not not about race, but it's more that the Obama narrative will seem familiar if aspirational, whereas the Romney one, not so much. Meanwhile, obviously most who voted for Romney can't identify with having a car elevator. But they maybe can identify with ending up in life more or less where their parents did.


Miss Self-Important said...

I don't see where this article has any data on high-earning Asians. Asians on the whole may be the highest earning group, but the median household income (I assume that's the number the Bloomberg writer was using and not individual income?) in the US is only around $50k, so the fact that as a group they earn more than the median doesn't mean that very many of them earn more than $100k.

So, for kicks, I looked this up in the Census build-your-own-data-chart app (which is really nifty), and found that out of 4.5 million Asians surveyed for the ACS, about 1.3 million made more than $100k in the last 12 months. The vast majority of these were from only about five or six ethnic groups (eyeballing: Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Indians, and Vietnamese).

We might say these are the Tiger Mom demographics, at least relative to other parts of Asia like the Middle East and Central Asia. But if they are making >$100k, then according to this article, they favored Romney. So the big question for your theory of meritocratic narratives is how these people in particular voted, and not Asians in general. Does that make sense? Sometimes when I talk about numbers, I lose the ability to follow my own thoughts logically.

(Also, this data didn't differentiate among citizens and non-citizens, so this does not entirely map onto voting, and it obviously does not account for turnout, which according to boring things I read in grad school that may be dated, has historically been low for Asians.)

(Side question: Do Israelis ironically count as Asians by this measure? Jews the new Asians?)

Phoebe said...


I haven't done my own fact-checking of these stats, and was just giving this story the benefit of the doubt.

But I'm not sure, now that I think about it, that for my theory to work, we specifically need the >$100k group to have supported Obama. What if the Stuyvesant parents (who could vote) did? Is our concern the UMC families that artificially revive immigrant values, or are we interested in the immigrants themselves?

My own anecdotal guess would have been that among meritocrats mid-trajectory, the older generation (or the immigrants themselves) prefer Republicans, b/c that seems more the American Dream, bootstraps, family. (Also b/c I'm not sure all the "Christian" talk is off-putting to Asian-Americans - plenty of whom are indeed Christian - the way it is to Jews of European origin, who have a particular history with this.) But then the younger generation will be much further to the left, b/c assimilating to the broader how-well-educated-young-people-tend-to-be-politically, or whether b/c of a growing sense, when going through life, that the right isn't actually color-blind. So yes, the article kind of surprised me, and I'd want to know more before seriously endorsing its conclusions.

Miss Self-Important said...

Well, we'd care about the rich Asians specifically because you want to isolate the effect of meritocratic ideology on voting. Since the poor vote in greater numbers for Democrats anyway, low income may be a confounding variable. The article was arguing that it's wealthy Asians who bucked the wealthy trend, and so presumably voted for Obama on other than economic interest grounds. It just failed to actually disaggregate Asian voters by income bracket. So that would be what you'd want to do. (Not that you need to become a statistican and do it, I'm just saying the conclusion can't be drawn from the presented data.)

Also, I think there may be a difference b/w the conceptions of meritocracy that you're describing. There is on the one hand a general bootstrapping ethic - social mobility through individual diligence. That's a view probably endorsed by most immigrants and most native-born Americans as well, but it seems to be more connected to entrepreneurship and small-business success rather than ascent through educational prestige. So Uncle Piotr comes to America with $500 and opens an auto body shop in Chicago that is successful enough to buy him a house in the suburbs and pay for his three kids' college tuition. Bootstraps.

And then there is the particular meritocratic ethic tied to ascent via exams and educational credentials, and that is more the Tiger Mom view and also closer to what Obama represents. The goal of people who hold this view is to achieve upward mobility through prestige, which involves certain educational credentials that pave the way for future employment in prestigious professional institutions. So the children need to do whatever it takes to get into a top college, then from there a top professional school, then a highly secure and well-paid job. In short, I don't think Amy Chua would approve of her daughters' opening a very successful local grocery store. I think this view of meritocracy is much less widespread in America than the former one, but is more common to East Asians and Indians, as well as immigrant and non-immigrant Jews.

So that's another reason why you may want to isolate these groups for your own theory about meritocracy, since the Obama narrative is much more conducive to the second view of meritocracy than the first. Romney's narrative about building up businesses and running companies is closer to the first, although of course the actual details of his success are out of reach of most people who identify with the view. Though notably, so are the details of Obama's success. Most academic strivers will not get into Harvard Law or have the rapid political rise he had.

Miss Self-Important said...

But the second argument that you make in the comment above rather than the post is about cross-generational shifts among immigrants, and that I think has much less to do with views about meritocracy one way or another and much more to do with the specific political situations that people initially left behind. If we consider the examples of Cubans and Soviet Jews as groups, for example, there is a very striking political shift within one generation of arrival. The first generation of Cubans and Soviet Jews that arrived here skewed very heavily Republican, and their children have completely reversed.
I'm less persuaded that this is a result of views about social mobility than that this has to do with the regimes these people left and their allegiance to the party that facilitated their departure and took a stronger stance against communism. But for their children, communism was not a salient political issue, and they feel no particular ties to the Republican party for facilitating their emigration, so they take on much the same views as the native-born kids with whom they grew up.

By contrast, people coming to the US for less political reasons like the desire to make more money may not have any hostility to the politics of their home country, and so if they supported liberal or quasi-socialist governments back home, it makes sense to continue supporting the closest analog here. Again, that would have little to do with views about meritocracy specifically.

Britta said...

Not surprisingly, Asian-Americans are a heterogeneous bunch, and voting practices are distributed accordingly Unsurprisingly, Republican affiliation doesn't correlate with income among Asians, as the Japanese Americans, the highest earning ethnic group in the US, leans strongly Democratic, as do Indians, Koreans, and Chinese. By contrast, Filipinos and Vietnamese are the most Republican, not surprising given religion and the history of Vietnamese immigration, which patterns more like Cubans. (Though, like Cubans, Vietnamese Americans are becoming more Democratic).

As for why this shift is taking place, I think there are several key reasons. Anecdatally (anecdotes, but with a very large N), I think we shouldn't underestimate how much the whole 'birther' campaign and the general smearing of Obama's Americanness turned off Asians. Assuming a brown skinned man with a foreign-sounding name born in Hawaii can't be a real American solely for those reasons really repelled lots of Asians, even ones who might otherwise have voted for Republicans. Party of hard work and fiscal responsibility, yes, party of naked xenophobia? no. Asians can also see that any acceptance they might gain in the Republican party is predicated on their use as an electoral tool, rather than on any sort of real acceptance of difference or recognition of the US as a multicultural country.

Secondly, for wealthy East Asians, the whole "I built it myself" narrative really doesn't jive with Confucian values of family and community support, and at least for educated Asians who came here to go to grad school, experiences of poverty while being PhD students also made the '47%' comments really unappealing. 47% included students and the working poor, something first generation, high income Asians I know were all too cognizant of. Asians, especially Koreans, have high rates of uninsurance, and Obamacare is popular, especially with Vietnamese Americans (see pdf). At any rate the "let him die" chant during the Republican primaries doesn't seem to have helped attract even previous Republican Asian voters.

Finally, social conservative values doesn't always translate into agreement on government regulation of those values. For example, I know many 1st generation Chinese people who think homosexuality is a mental illness, but they don't think it's the government's job to legislate who can get married. Similarly, I know devout Korean Presbyterians who've personally had 5 abortions in Korea, where abortion is legal, common, and unstigmatized.

If the Republican party doesn't crack down on racism within their party and readjust their image of what the US looks like, they're going to have really huge problems in the future winning national elections. Young Asian voters are even more overwhelmingly Democratic, something which doesn't bode well.

Ponder Stibbons said...


Actually, abortion is illegal in South Korea, although it is widely available:

Britta said...

Ponder Stibbons,

Ha, sorry yeah. I forgot that abortion is actually technically illegal in most of the world, even though widely available and less stigmatized. It's also technically illegal and/or technically highly restricted in Scandinavia, France, and most of Australia.

Miss Self-Important said...

Britta, you seem to be suggesting that East Asians are simultaneously very communitarian and very libertarian. I'm not really sure how these positions harmonize easily, and it seems a little too convenient that they're arrayed in such a way as to reflect exactly the Democratic platform - they're too communitarian to believe that they can succeed w/o government help, but too libertarian to believe the government should regulate their personal choices. On this account, the only thing the Republican Party could do to court Asians is to become the Democratic Party. Are you sure this is really an accurate description of Asian politics? It seems not to account for the possibility of any Asian votes going to Republicans, who are so antithetical to all Asian values, and yet proportionally far more Asians are voting Republican than, say, Jews or blacks, so this seems like an odd description.

Also, re: "Asians can also see that any acceptance they might gain in the Republican party is predicated on their use as an electoral tool." National political parties in the US are not social cliques or churches. You don't "gain acceptance" or membership into anything by casting a vote for a politician. He doesn't even know you did it. Unless you become involved in politics by joining local organizations and campaigning, you're just a voter, and so an electoral tool, or if you prefer, a demographic prize for which parties contend. I realize that many politically active elites see political affiliation as the basis for a (largely imagined, abstract) affinity group, but I'm not sure that people less interested or involved in politics feel that way.

Britta said...

I'm not sure what's so confusing about the concept that people can believe in personal responsibility, hard work, and be socially conservative re. marriage & sex in their personal lives, but also believe that there should be government provided social services and a safety net for hard times and that the government shouldn't regulate personal morality. It pretty much sums up me and almost everyone I know and, Charles Murray actually wrote a book about it.

For Asians, I pointed out that devout Catholicism and a strong dislike of Communism are key factors that would cause Asians to vote Republican, thus Filipinos and Vietnamese are traditionally Republican leaning, and I provided data which showed this point. However, as the Republicans become more and more the party of overt racism, Asians who would be likely Republican voters are less and less likely to do so. Clinton got about 31% & Bush 55% of the Asian vote in 1992; Obama got 73% & Romney 26%. (Obama got about 2/3 of the Asian vote in 2008). Each election, Asians vote in greater numbers for the Democrats. Currently, Asian voters under 30 are overwhelmingly Democratic (especially since the study, done before the election, underestimates Democratic support), and groups like Vietnamese Americans are shifting left. The only Asian group not shifting left are Filipino Americans. As of now, Asian Americans are more likely to vote Democratic than any other group except for African Americans. Asian American also appear to be a group for whom high income doesn't translate into Republican support, as Indian and Japanese Americans (highest earning ethnic groups in the US) are overwhelmingly Democratic. (93% of Indians, 74% of Chinese, and 69% of Japanese voted for Obama in 2008, higher percentages than Asian Americans on average (67%). I would imagine Obama's 6% gain among Asian voters means these percentages are higher, to the extent that is possible.)

But short answer: yes. If the Republicans want to attract back unmarried women and non-whites, then they're going to have to significantly alter their policies. It's not that Asian Americans are wedded to the Democratic party (most are Independents), but rather, key elements across the board in the current combination of social and fiscal conservatism + xenophobia is a turn-off to Asian voters, according to the survey findings.

Miss Self-Important said...

It's not hard to believe that affluent, educated American liberals believe this particular combination of views (that's the demographic Murray is pointing to). It's a little harder to believe that the rest of the world is a perfect mirror of affluent, educated American liberal politics. I don't know very much about East Asian politics, so perhaps my impressions are simply inaccurate, but I am told that Singapore is not exactly a hands-off state with respect to personal behavior, nor is China. Korea has a more democratic regime, but I'm not exactly sure what it means to say that it doesn't regulate "personal morality" if abortion, same-sex marriage, drug use, and adultery are all illegal - is that not regulation?

Moreover, what you describe is not in the first iteration generic liberalism, but specifically communitarianism - the family or community is responsible for you and vice versa. The reason I suggest this is in tension with a libertarian view that the government should stay out of your bedroom is that, on the first view, there is no "your bedroom", so it licenses substantial community intervention in your personal life. You can't just marry whomever you wish or do what you want with your life because your marriage and career reflect on your family, and so they should be able to direct these choices. It's true that the intervention may not be by the state but could be by your relatives and neighbors instead, but it's not clear in principle why it shouldn't be the state if that's what's also providing the safety net. And it's also not clear that just as long as anything but the state is what's dictating whom to marry, you're really free to choose in the libertarian sense. Holding both views - that you owe everything to the community, and that you have a right to personal self-determination - is not likely to be sustainable in the long run, since every life decision will pit these positions against each other. So if the combination of attitudes you describe is accurate, it's also highly unstable and difficult to extrapolate into the future. In the US, this tension resolved itself in favor of libertarianism, with an embattled impersonal welfare state replacing the institutions of civil society. Would Asians go the same way?

The problem with these data is that they don't quite bear out the narrative you're offering, or any clear narrative that I can discern. You say devout Catholicism makes Filipinos strong Republicans, but here it says they went for Obama in 2008 and have now flipped for Romney. By contrast, many Koreans are evangelicals, but that hasn't tied them to the Republican party. The people polled here say that the economy is the major political issue America must deal with, and on fiscal policy, Republicans have a lead over Democrats among those sampled, and yet they don't in aggregate seem to have voted on the issue they claimed was most important. There is no mention here of perceptions of the parties as xenophobic or unwelcoming, and as far as prioritizing this as an issue goes, "Very few respondents mentioned issues like the budget deficit, poverty and inequality, race and racism, or immigration as a most important national problem." So if these are such low priorities, how can we conclude that they're the major driver of Asian voting? I sympathize with the difficulty of pulling a clear narrative from these data, but am a little wary of slipping into just-so stories - people who vote like me must therefore think like me. That's likely to be true on the local level, where the range of possibilities is narrower, but less true as we're talking about candidates who are getting 60 million votes.

PG said...

Without assuming my Asian-American family somehow typifies "the Asians," particularly as we're South rather than East Asian...

"I'm not sure what's so confusing about the concept that people can believe in personal responsibility, hard work, and be socially conservative re. marriage & sex in their personal lives, but also believe that there should be government provided social services and a safety net for hard times and that the government shouldn't regulate personal morality."

Is a pretty accurate description of my parents' views. They vote Republican purely for tax reasons (they make enough money both in wage and investment income that going back to Clinton-era rates would affect them). But they certainly aren't inclined to agree with Republicans on government intrusion into one's personal life, while they are all for familial intrusion into one's personal life. I don't understand why this seems weird. For example, my mother never joined any of those Focus on the Family type angry letter/ phonecall campaigns to have the government get the filth off TV. Her views are drastically more conservative than the average American's -- she would flip the channel while we were watching TV even if a married couple was kissing. (Public kissing is still mildly taboo in India, and was far more so when she was growing up.) But my mom didn't think it was the government's job to determine what her kids saw on TV. She thought it was her job, and if another family had different rules (as even some Indian families with whom we were friends did), then they should be free to have those different rules. She wouldn't let us date when we lived at home and lives in a state of denial about premarital sex, but she also thinks abortion is a decision to be made by one's own family and that sometimes it's the right thing to do for your family, eg if you don't have the resources to care for another child. She's quite religious but Hinduism doesn't have a clear stance on abortion, and it's pretty hard to have lived in a country as overcrowded as India and still believe abortion, much less contraception, is always wrong. She is vaguely skeptical that homosexuality is a real thing, but she also opposes discriminating against people in employment for identifying as gay. They may be doing it to get attention, but it doesn't disqualify them from being competent teachers, computer programmers, nurses, etc.

PG said...

Also, it doesn't make much sense to map the values of voluntary immigrants (which most Asian-Americans are, with the possible exception of Vietnamese and especially Hmong refugees) from the politics of their homelands. My dad left India in the 1970s because it was insanely bureaucratic, and nearly impossible for someone smart and hard-working but unconnected to become highly successful there. Why would you assume his politics are the politics of the place he's from? He has some liberal values about government (including government's obligation to provide education so that kids like he was have a chance to rise). But he also has conservative values in terms of being suspicious of arbitrary regulation that tends to accrue power and money to people in government so that your ability to get anything done depends on connections/ bribes.

The set of people who voluntarily immigrate is not going to match the set of people who stay in the home country. If all Indian people were as intelligent and hard-working as the average Indian immigrant is, India would be in far better shape. This is why people who cared about developing countries in the 1970s and 1980s were so anxious about brain drain -- people were getting educated, largely at the expense of their socialist governments, and then taking their skills somewhere they'd be better remunerated for them. Remittances (which happen because of having communitarian values about family, so you don't just immigrate and think "screw all y'all back home," but are usually not made out of a communitarian impulse toward government) are significant, but they only increase the money in circulation; they don't improve the quality of government, health care, education, infrastructure, etc. Conditions have gotten better in much of Asia so that that's less of a concern, but it's still a huge one for many African countries.

Ponder Stibbons said...

I second PG's point about immigrants not reflecting the values of their homelands. For the immigrant groups I'm familiar with (ethnic Chinese), job prospects back where they came from, right now, aren't necessarily worse than in America. Those who really like the communitarian culture blah blah back home could just go home and probably would not be jobless (it helps that they are also disproportionately highly educated). Not to mention that it's not easy even for high-skilled workers to immigrate here. If you really prefer the values back home, then, it is, for many people, easier to just go home. So, the people who seek permanent migration are disproportionately skewed towards those who prefer 'liberal' values as such. Not that I have numbers to prove this.

Miss Self-Important said...

PG: So if your Indian parents vote Republican, they are apparently as typical as black Republicans. Britta's and, I assume, your argument here is that social conservatism is a major turn-off to Asian voters who, despite personally holding socially conservative values, are actively opposed to any government action on those values. The no-government-action aspect would seem to be a real priority to motivate such voting, as it is for conventional American liberals. Charles Murray's subjects are people who probably would not get abortions themselves, but, if my facebook feed is a good measure, are extremely concerned that they be available to others. Without this concern, all you're faced with is a party that shares your social values and wants to codify more of them than you'd personally prefer, and also advocates your preferred economic positions. It's hardly obvious in that scenario that you'd loathe that party, so I'm not really persuaded that some underlying strand of Asian libertarianism explains the skew to the left.

I also don't understand how you can insist that voluntary migrants shouldn't be thought to reflect the values of their homelands but offer an example of immigrants - your parents - reflecting the values of their homeland. Maybe it would make sense to distinguish types of values - there are on the one hand traditional mores, sometimes codified, sometimes informal. However, the political system of a country with even very traditional values can contain active leftist parties, with which eventual migrants may have sympathized while they lived there. Those parties are not exactly like the Democratic Party in the US and often do not promote recognizably liberal social agendas (eg, they aren't promoting abortion or gay marriage), but they are still leftist in the broad sense of being parties of the poor or of trade unions, etc. So for voluntary migrants sympathetic to those parties, the Democratic Party might look more familiar than the alternative, and such votes in the US would have little to do with reflecting communitarian social ideals or commitment to meritocracy or anything like that. If you were a trade unionist in Guatemala, you vote Democrat here because that's what matters, and not what anyone says about abortion one way or the other. Is that what you mean by not reflecting values of the homeland?

Even though you may know people who combine communitarian social ethics with libertarian political positions and they may be happy and all that, the combination is nonetheless unstable in the long term. Consider second-generation immigrants: would you have let your parents select your spouse? If your family disapproved of a fiance you selected, would you break your engagement for their sake? I grew up with many people (Asian and not) whose parents' marriages had been either formally or informally arranged, and although these girls were sometimes under more pressure to marry or marry early than the daughters of American-born parents, nonetheless none of them that I know of has had an arranged marriage, and only a few have even had the option suggested to them. A similar trend operates with extended families living together - again, many first generation families from everywhere in the world have live-in grandparents. How many second-generation families do? Third generation? Why does that happen? Individualism and the subordination of the self to the family or community work to opposite ends, and in the US, the former usually wins out. When that happens, we weaken and dissolve family/community ties and turn to government intervention, both to rescue the people who fail to flourish under individualism, and to impose community values on reluctant individuals who no longer respond to social pressures.

PG said...

So if your Indian parents vote Republican, they are apparently as typical as black Republicans.

No, they're typical of Asians who immigrated prior to the 1980s. Almost every article I've read about Asian-American voting patterns notes that earlier Asian immigrants trended more Republican. More recent Asian immigrants are more likely to have gotten some of their education in the U.S. and not to have gotten married prior to immigrating, both of which factors put them in social environments disposed toward liberalism. Once you add in the children of the earlier immigrants, who also are spending years in liberal academic environments, that now outweighs the older immigrants. It's been a slowly building trend: in 1992 Bush Sr. won 55% of the Asian vote; in 2004 Jr. won only 41% of Asians.

And as Phoebe notes, Obama is particularly popular because he has a narrative with which many Asian Americans can identify, of a cross-cultural life in which he succeeded through academic achievement and his mom got him up at sunrise to study. At the same time, the nastier bits of conservative rhetoric about Obama's time in Indonesia, having a Pakistani roommate and traveling in Asia, the "he's not a real American" stuff, has succeeded in putting off people who are still economically conservative but are too disgusted by this rhetoric to vote Republican. Anti-immigrant rhetoric, though primarily directed at Latinos, also can wash over to Asians; my dad has given thousands of dollars to GOP candidates but supported a Democratic Congressman in one election because the Republican opponent was SO rabidly anti-immigrant. Basically once the discussion goes beyond "You should follow the law" (it's hard for Asians to walk/swim to the U.S., so they mostly enter legally and think Latinos should too), into "You're in America, speak English all the time," or Pat Buchanan type "these non-white immigrants will be the Death of the West," you've pushed away Asians.

Charles Murray's subjects are people who probably would not get abortions themselves, but, if my facebook feed is a good measure, are extremely concerned that they be available to others.

Hmm, I thought I'd described how being personally conservative about sex does not necessarily coincide with being anti-abortion. Indeed, the sex-ratio statistics imply that some Asian immigrant populations are perpetuating the preference for males through the use of abortion. These aren't women who got knocked up out of wedlock; they're married, often already with a daughter, they don't think they can afford more than 2-3 children, and they/ their families want a son.

It's possible to consider oneself pro-family and also think that an abortion is the right thing for your family. I don't know how I can explain this any better. There's plenty of social science research, particularly by Carol Gilligan, about how even native-born women's views on abortion are often driven by an ethic of care rather than by rights talk, so that they choose abortion not framed by "I have a right to do what I want" but rather "I have an obligation to do what's best for my family/ existing relationship."

PG said...

I also don't understand how you can insist that voluntary migrants shouldn't be thought to reflect the values of their homelands but offer an example of immigrants - your parents - reflecting the values of their homeland.

Simple: they reflect the social values of their homeland -- values that frequently are not reflected in law -- not the legally-enacted values about political structures or economics. In a non-democracy, or a poorly-functioning democracy dominated by elites, the law frequently doesn't reflect the most dominant social values. For example, it's not illegal to show kissing in movies, and Western movies are popular in India and will show it. But there's still a social bias against Indian people's engaging in PDA, even on film. And this kind of "That's what Westerners do and that's all right for them, but that's not how we do and we don't want to import their values" thinking is extremely widespread in India. And it's extremely common among immigrants; they aren't interested in imposing their values on their adopted country, but they want very much to transmit those values to their offspring. It may be different in other Asian countries. I don't know how much of this "you pardesis do what you do and we desis do what we do" mindset might derive from Hinduism's plurality of... everything, and disinclination to missionize.

Certainly you're right that these values tend to weaken somewhat over time. I didn't have an arranged marriage (but my parents didn't assume I would, either). At the same time, I'm far more in favor of authoritarian child-rearing (as you might see from some of my discussions with Phoebe about parenting) than most liberals and libertarians, and I think this is a reflection of how I was raised. And along with the other Asian-Americans of my generation whom I know, I'm education-obsessed to a degree unusual even among my overall socioeconomic group. A Taiwanese-American friend of mine still lives at the house her parents bought and is going to have her fiance move in with her there, because she pays the mortgage as her mom can't afford to do so, and wants to raise her kids in that district because it has excellent public schools. So she'll be perpetuating the multi-generational household, even as she's marrying someone non-Taiwanese who already has a kid from a previous relationship (not her parents' ideal). My younger sister certainly is going to pick her own spouse, but she's also declared that she wants Mom to move in with her once she has kids. Values are not an on-off switch, nor are they all-or-nothing.

Britta said...

I think a question is this. Why did a socially-constructed but intra-heterogeneous demographic group vote almost overwhelmingly in one direction (i.e. for Obama)? There are multiple answers to that, many of them only apparent when you look at more fine-grained details, but there are some generalizations.

The generalizations are: as PG and I have mentioned, ugly nativism doesn't do well with people who are immigrants, especially non-white ones. This isn't just reflected in immigration policies, but also narratives about the candidates, and the now years of birtherism isn't helping recruit Asians, who like Obama might be born here with a non-anglo sounding name.
Relatedly, Obama's biography resonates with a very pan-Asian success story: becoming successful through study and access to elite education. It's not only an Asian ideal, nor do all Asians subscribe to it equally, but it is an observed cultural phenomenon across S and E Asia in a way not found in the US.

1) Not all immigrants do vote the same way. Some groups, like Filipinos, are more Republican, others, like Indian, Chinese, and Japanese, are more Democratic. Some of this has to do with cultural differences. I would guess Catholic Asians would trend more Republican than non-Christian Asians. This seems to play out with the data (Filipinos are almost all Catholic, Vietnamese are about half Catholic half Buddhist.)
2) Much of this, like PG points out, is cohort effect. In the Chinese community, Chinese immigrants who immigrated pre-1970 tended very Republican because they were mostly fleeing Maoist China. Their children and grandchildren, educated through US public schools including mainly the UC system, are almost uniformly Democrats. Later waves of Chinese immigrants hold much more complicated attitudes towards Communism and the Chinese state and do not naturally lean Republican. Finally, lots of Chinese DO come here illegally. They pay ungodly amounts of money (up to $40,000, for people who earn about $1,000/year) and risk their lives to wash dishes in NY Chinatown for $4/hour. They obviously don't vote, but they have children and sometimes family members who do.

Likewise, as Vietnamese refugees from Communism start having children who are reaching age of majority, we're seeing a voting shift. This in part could be older Vietnamese immigrants getting turned off by Nativism, and in part could be the result of the change from primarily Vietnamese immigrants to Vietnamese-Americans voting.

Japanese Americans are almost all 3-6th generation, and as "American" as any white ethnic group, except full assimilation is prevented because of appearance. The fact that Japanese-Americans can be successful, patriotic, hardworking Americans but still be seen as foreign or unAmerican really rankles this community, especially as its overshadowed by a history of internment camps.

Britta said...

Ok, update:
So, my (AA) roommate weighs in and she thinks Obama's personal narrative played almost no role in this election, since he's already been in office for four years, and no amount of meritocracy would be attractive if Asians thought Obama sucked. Instead, she chalks the increased AA vote to support for Obama's policies, like healthcare and the bailouts, and also the racism and nativism in the Republican campaign.

Phoebe said...


For "AA" I first read "affirmative action" - which I guess says something about my Ashkenazi alcohol tolerance.

But I think Obama's personal narrative has, if in the background, influenced if not exactly Asian - or Jewish - support for him, at least made many such voters comfortable with him, made him relatable. It's our version of could-have-a-beer-with-him, could-have-a-coffee-with-him-while-cramming-at-the-library-at-2-am. Not, as MSI notes, that his level of success is relatable, but he seems like the most successful example *of* a familiar type. Not unlike my classmate profiled here.