Asian Americans Suffer the Most from Racial Discrimination, Study Finds

A recent study found that racial and ethnic discrimination has far-reaching negative effects on minority adolescent development, with Asian Americans and Latino Americans suffering the most in regards to socio-emotional well-being.

Led by Dr. Aprile D. Benner, associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, the landmark paper looked at the results of over 214 studies to determine the extent to which perceived discrimination impacted adolescent well-being in three domains: socio-emotional, academic and behavioral.

Overall, correlations between perceived racism and poor well-being were consistently found.

Those who experienced more discrimination were at greater risk for more depressive symptoms, poorer self-esteem, lower academic achievement, higher likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behaviors and drug use and associating with deviant peers.

Further analyses broke the results down by race to gain additional insights.

Surprisingly, African Americans were the least affected by racial discrimination across the three domains.

To explain this finding, the paper offers that due to a more heavily entrenched history of oppression in America, African American parents, and the community at large, engage in greater socialization efforts to prepare their children for racism compared to Asian and Latino families.

This rings true, at least anecdotally, for many Asian and Latino Americans, whose first-generation immigrant parents arrived in the country with hopeful hearts and the promises of the American dream firmly ingrained; in these households, racism tends to be an uncommon topic.

Perhaps for this reason, alongside the “perpetual foreigner” stereotype applied to Asians and Latinos, it was found that Asians were more heavily impacted by racism in the domain of socio-emotional well-being (i.e. depression, self-esteem, etc.) than African Americans, while Latinos’ experiences of racism affected both socio-emotional well-being and academic performance more than African Americans.

This is in line with previous research which found that Asian Americans exhibit higher levels of depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem, according to Benner.

It should be noted that the article makes no claim as to which group actually experiences the most racism, only the extent to which groups are affected by it in terms of well-being outcomes.

Speaking on the significance of her paper, Benner was quoted by EurekAlert! as saying, “The psychological, behavioral and academic burdens posed by racial and ethnic discrimination during adolescence, coupled with evidence that experiences of discrimination persist across the life course for persons of color, point to discrimination as a clear contributor to the racial and ethnic disparities observed for African-American, Latino and Native American populations compared with their white counterparts.”  

At a time when Asian Americans are embroiled in a controversy surrounding Harvard’s alleged anti-Asian affirmative action policies, the finding that Asian Americans are negatively impacted by racism — including in the domain of academics — as much, if not more, as other minority groups seems to beg the question of fairness in regards to admissions committees holding Asian Americans to a higher standard.

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