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Chinese Un-Exceptionalism? The Case of Chinese Youths in Spain and their Low Educational Ambitions

  • Education


The children of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. have been held up as exemplars for their academic prowess and their high levels of educational attainment. Although recent U.S.-based studies have attempted to debunk the ‘model minority’ hypothesis, showing that the actual educational trajectories of Chinese youths vary tremendously by family SES, in terms of group-level outcomes, the Chinese still fare better than other ethno-national groups net of SES characteristics (e.g. Kasinitz et al. 2008; Kao 1995; Louie 2004; Portes and Rumbaut 2001). Regardless of actual educational outcomes, the ambition for higher education among Chinese immigrant parents, which are subsequently transmitted to the youths themselves, appear to remain strong. In this way, researchers have commented on how the Chinese represent an ‘exceptional’ case: even among children whose parents have minimal education (i.e. less than a high school diploma), the pressure to excel at school is nearly universal. Whether or not they actually do well in school and make good grades, they are expected to graduate from high school and to enter some form of post-secondary institution, even if it is not a prestigious four-year university. By comparison, their counterparts from other national origin groups, who come from families of comparable or even higher SES backgrounds, tend not to be as academically-fixated in their future life plans.

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