A few popular explanations attempt to argue for a weaker relationship between socioeconomic status (SES), parental involvement (PI), and achievement among Asian Americans compared to their white counterparts: Asian American students’ Confucian culture, strong motivation for upward mobility as immigrants, unique forms of parental involvement different from European Americans, and ethnic social capital. However, there has not been a single synthesis up to date empirically testing whether the effect size for SES and/or PI and achievement is actually weaker among Asian Americans across the body of accumulated scholarship. In this review, we found that quantitatively, the SES-achievement relationship was null for Asian Americans while it was positive for PI and achievement. The current scholarship revealed several key problems. In spite of the intuitive and appealing cultural arguments put forward emphasising Confucianism and immigration optimism, our review points out that these arguments have weak empirical support, and are too generic to be convincingly applied to Asian Americans without any distinction by ethnicity or generation. Furthermore, the parental involvement measures used did not effectively capture Asian American parents’ behaviours. Our review suggests a new comprehensive model better integrating the Confucian and immigrant optimism explanation, developing culturally appropriate measures of PI, distinguishing ethnic variation within Asian American groups, and including a nuanced view on how and whether the explanations hold across generations.
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