Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Educational Policy and Leadership Studies
Bills, David B.
First Committee Member
An, Brian P.
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Fourth Committee Member
Between 2000 and 2010, the Asian population within the U.S. increased more than four times faster than the total U.S. population. Accordingly, school-aged immigrant children from Asia constitute a sizeable portion of the U.S.’s student population. The percentage of students enrolled in elementary and secondary public schools who are Asian/Pacific Islander is projected to increase from 2.6 to 3.1 million between 2014 and 2025, and will account for 6 percent of total enrollment by 2025. Asian American youth have shown distinct characteristics among other racial minority groups in the U.S. Compared to their White and Black counterparts, Asian American students perform better in secondary education and have higher college admission test scores. In addition to educational success in secondary education, Asian Americans also tend to enroll in college at higher rates, and are more likely to attend highly selective four-year colleges compared to other racial minority groups. Although the research on Asian American students’ educational success in secondary education and transition to college is well-established, neither their experiences in the early stages of schooling or in higher education have been investigated in depth, which leads to a general misunderstanding of Asian American students and their educational outcomes.
For the children of immigrant parents, early childhood is the most important period for adjustment, providing opportunities to prepare socially, psychologically, and intellectually for formal institutional settings. Despite this, researchers have paid relatively little attention to the educational experiences of young Asian American students and their families. Research on Asian American college students is equally important, with some social scientists reporting that the educational success of Asian Americans in secondary education is not necessarily maintained through higher education. Research on these two stages of education will help us better understand the educational attainment of Asian American students in terms of life course perspectives.
In order to address the evident gaps in research, I have chosen to investigate the relationship between parents’ race/ethnicity and parental involvement in pre-secondary education, as well as the association between students’ race/ethnicity and educational experiences in post-secondary education, focusing primarily on Asian American students. In the first study, I examine how the race/ethnicity of parents with first grade children contributes to parental involvement within school and outside of school, after controlling for potential confounding factors at both the child and parent level. I further explore whether parents’ socioeconomic status (SES) influences the parental involvement of Asian parents. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-2011 (ECLS-K:2011) data, I employ ordinary least squared (OLS) regression to examine the extent to which parent’s race/ethnicity or SES (within-race/ethnicity analysis) predict parental involvement in their children’s educational activities, in school and outside of school. To adjust for weighting and design effects in the data set, I used the specific first grade weights designed for each teacher, parent, or school administrator response in 2010-2011 cohorts, respectively. I found that while Asian parents had significantly lower participation in school-based parental activities compared to White parents, such parents tended to participate more heavily in their children’s educational activities outside of school. Within-race/ethnicity analysis for Asian parents, I found an overall positive effect of SES on parental involvement both in school and outside of school. Interestingly, the determinants of parental involvement changed depending upon the types of parental involvement.
In the second study, I analyze the 2016 Student Experience in the Research University (SERU), a multi-institutional data set, to examine the relationship between students’ race/ethnicity and college outcomes, as well as the extent to which students’ college experiences and perceptions mediate this relationship. I found that Asian American college students had a lower college GPA, as well as lower scores in self-assessment of gains in critical thinking and communication skills, compared to their White peers. Students’ academic engagement and perceptions of how well they belonged accounted for the largest share of the relationship between students’ race/ethnicity and college outcomes. I further explore how parental education, as a proxy of parents’ SES, influences the college outcomes of Asian American college students. I found that Asian American students with parents who did not attend any college had higher GPAs than those Asian American students with parents who both earned four-year degrees. However, Asian American students with parents who did not attend any college had lower scores in self-evaluation of gains in critical thinking and communication skills than those with parents who both earned four-year degrees.
This dissertation contributes to the existing literature on Asian American studies and higher education by pushing the boundaries of sociological knowledge of the experiences of Asian American students in U.S. schools. Focusing on the influence of race/ethnicity and family background from the early years to the post-secondary level, this research provides a rich and far more comprehensive understanding of immigrant success than is currently available in the literature. Given the statistical evidence of higher educational attainment among Asian American students, many policy makers view Asian American students and their families as members of a model minority; researchers typically describe these individuals as successfully overcoming some racial minority status, and wrongly assume that they do not need to receive specific policy or program support. These perspectives imply that Asian American students are a homogeneous racial group. In response, my dissertation attempts to reveal the disadvantages of those Asian American parents who struggle to involve themselves in their children’s school-based activities, as well as how SES can impact parent involvement among these Asian parents. My dissertation also attempts to highlight the fact that success in secondary education for Asian Americans does not necessarily lead to successful college outcomes. These findings indicate that Asian American students and their families have been misunderstood and misrepresented, particularly with regard to the early stages of schooling, as well as higher education. My dissertation seeks to inform policy for those programs targeting disadvantaged racial minority students. Educational institutions, for instance, could design policy interventions for those racial minority parents with children in pre-secondary education wanting to involve themselves more heavily in their children’s school-based activities. Postsecondary educators might also be able to more effectively foster the academic success of their students (specifically Asian Americans) by increasing their awareness of their students’ particular immigrant and family backgrounds.
Asian American, Asian American college students, Asian American studies, College experiences, Parental involvement, Racial diversity in higher education
xv, 99 pages
Includes bibliographical references (pages 71-80).
Copyright © 2018 Sanga Kim
Kim, Sanga. "Asian American students’ academic achievement: reassessing early childhood and college." PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) thesis, University of Iowa, 2018.