Asian Air 


Shift in Asian American Career Choices?
(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 05:09:54 PM)

or the first century Asians in America were almost entirely menial laborers, mostly in farming and construction. Around the turn of the century a few were able to start small businesses, mostly restaurants, markets, laundries and gardening services. It wasn't until the 1950s -- a century after Asian immigration began -- that young AA infiltrated professional ranks, primarily in medicine, engineering and accounting. The next few decades saw Asians multiply in those fields, while a small minority ventured into law, journalism and marketing. But even at the start of the new milennium, most promising Asian Americans continue crowding into medical and engineering fields, with corporate finance and management emerging as a serious alternative.
Professional Man
Risking security?

     The AA bias in favor of secure, well-paying professions is powerful. About 62% of all U.S.-born Asians under 30 attain professional or managerial positions compared with only 25% among the general population. In some top medical, engineering and business schools Asian Americans even make up pluralities. But the most recent decades have seen an explosion of adventuresome young AA exploring less cut-and-dried careers. For example, between 1980 and 2000 Asian American California law school enrollment quadrupled to 12% of the total. Once completely absent from film and journalism schools, Asian Americans now account for about 5% of their enrollments -- in excess of our representation in the general population.
     But those AA moving outside the comfortable medicine/engineering/corporate finance orbits exhibit a telling gender imbalance: females outnumber males 3:1, reflecting an unyielding expectation that the overriding priority for Asian males is to establish the most financially rewarding career within their abilities.
     But there are signs that the current generation of American-born Asians may be pulled more by its passion than family or cultural expectations. "I want to work at something I love," is a refrain heard with increasing frequency by alarmed parents. And yet the pressures of family and cultural biases aren't so easily shaken off. As college graduation draws near and shears are raised to cut apronstrings, prodigal sons and daughters may yet abandon the prospect of chronic unemployment and family disapproval for a safe life inside the fold.
     Are promising young Asian Americans moving away from traditional careers? Or are they continuing to yield to family and cultural expectations?

This interactive article is closed to new input.
Discussions posted during the past year remain available for browsing.

Asian American Videos

Films & Movies Channel

Humor Channel

Identity Channel

Vocals & Music Channel

Makeup & Hair Channel

Intercultural Channel


© 1996-2013 Asian Media Group Inc
No part of the contents of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission.


[This page is closed to new input. --Ed.]

No not all filthy rich overseas chinese got that way from mom and pop operations, but a majority of wealthy Chinese own a group of small business called conglomerates. It's all over Southeast Asia and in the U.S. as well. Many of them run finance, trade, and other forms of commerce. Of course there are also rich Chinese that own large companies. Charles Wang for example. But a majority of wealthy CHinese obtain their affluence from owning a lot of smaller businesses.
God Is Laughing
   Monday, November 11, 2002 at 12:44:45 (PST)    []
LSD we all gotta start leaning away from overgeneralizing. i doubt that the super-rich chinese around the world got that way solely through mom and pop operations. there are plenty of large businesses owned by Chinese as opposed to only Jews and Japanese as your statement implies.
ABC guy
   Monday, October 28, 2002 at 17:25:56 (PST)    []
I think this issue is more or less class-based and generation-based. Children of parents who JUST immigrated and whose parents were the first in their family to go to college are more-or-less going to pursue secure, cut-and-dry, non-imaginative careers.
There is also another "grouping" of Chinese-Americans, whose parents were the intellectual-elite or upper-class who most likely immigrated to the States fleeing from the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. These children are more open to careers in the arts or humanities. The children of Chinese professors and the American intellectual elite are pushed more to pursue careers that emphasize culture and intellect, versus banking and accounting. Some examples: architect of the Louvre pyramids, HK Bank of China, I.M.Pei's father was the President of a Bank. He was from the elite in Shanghai, so he was able to pursue a career in architecture. Maya Lin came from a similar upper-class intellectual background. Vera Wang was born in France to upper-class Chinese parents as well.
Nowadays, I feel like Asians are also represented in fashion and design. Look at Barbara Biu, Peter Som, Benjamin Cho, who are movers and shakers in the fashion/design world.
   Tuesday, October 01, 2002 at 09:31:28 (PDT)    []
[This is a discussion on shifts in AA career choices, not on relative global success of various ethnicities. --Ed]