Sociology Asian Americans
Jennifer C. Lee, Alexander Lu
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 July 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0004


Asian Americans currently make up about five percent of the US population and are one of the fastest growing racial/ethnic groups in the United States. The history of Asians in the United States spans more than 200 years. The term “Asian American” covers over twenty nationality groups. It covers a wide variety of identities, languages, cultures, and experiences, yet this diversity has been masked with the assumption of homogeneity and the model minority image. Research within sociology on Asian Americans often focuses on dispelling the model minority myth through the empirical analysis of heterogeneity within the Asian American population, particularly in regard to educational and socioeconomic outcomes. Other sociological research examines contemporary stereotypes and discrimination against Asian Americans as well as the racial stratification of Asian Americans in relation to other racial/ethnic groups in the United States. However, it is important to note that Asian American Studies is an interdisciplinary field, and much sociological work is informed and influenced by multi- and interdisciplinary work. Therefore, although focused primarily on sociological works, this article will include books and articles from other disciplines that have important implications for sociological research.

General Overviews

A number of comprehensive overviews of the Asian American experience are available that would be useful to undergraduate or graduate students and other scholars interested in learning about contemporary Asian American issues. The following resources provide a survey of current trends and issues within the Asian American population (e.g., Xie and Goyette 2004, Zhou and Gatewood 2000) and describe key moments in Asian American history that have impacted their experiences today (e.g., Ancheta 2008, Wu 2002, Zia 2000). Le is a comprehensive website that provides an overview of Asian American history, population trends, contemporary issues, and useful resources.

  • Ancheta, Angelo N. 2008. Race, rights, and the Asian American experience. 2d ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

    This book covers a wealth of topics relevant to Asian American studies, such as ethnic differences in the Asian American population, nativism, citizenship, language, school desegregation, affirmative action, and racial profiling. Through his analysis of legal cases and an examination of social and legal theories of racial discrimination, Ancheta highlights how Asian Americans are marginalized or unrecognized as full participants in American society.

  • Le, C. N. Asian-Nation: Asian American history, demographics, and issues.

    An authoritative website that provides a thorough sociological exploration of historical, demographic, political, and cultural issues that face the contemporary Asian American population. This site serves as a comprehensive introduction to the Asian American community as well as identifies other sources of information related to Asian Americans.

  • Wu, Frank H. 2002.Yellow: Race in America beyond black and white. New York: Basic Books.

    Written in a style accessible to the general public, this book provides a critical examination of important events in Asian American history, such as Japanese American internment, the killing of Vincent Chin, the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and the Wen Ho Lee case of misconstrued espionage. Issues covered are the model minority image, racial profiling, rational discrimination, intermarriage, and anti-Asian sentiment.

  • Xie, Yu, and Kimberly Goyette. 2004. A demographic portrait of Asian Americans. New York: Russell Sage Foundation and Population Reference Bureau.

    This report discusses racial differences in demographic and socioeconomic characteristics between Asians Americans and non-Asian Americans, as well as explores the heterogeneity within the Asian American community. The authors provide a review of the history of Asian immigration to the United States, then explore the educational achievements, labor force outcomes, marriage patterns, family characteristics, and residential patterns of Asian Americans.

  • Zhou, Min, and James V. Gatewood. 2000. Mapping the terrain: Asian American diversity and the challenges of the twenty-first century. Asian American Policy Review 9:5–29.

    In this article, the authors review the driving structural forces behind contemporary immigration from Asia and how they have impacted diversity within the Asian American population. The authors also discuss new challenges facing Asian Americans today.

  • Zia, Helen. 2000. Asian American dreams: The emergence of an American people. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    Written in a clear and engaging journalistic style, this book traces the changing politics and cultures of the Asian American community from the first major wave of Chinese immigration to the recent wave of Southeast Asian refugees. A good book to introduce undergraduates as well as the general audience to issues facing the Asian American community.

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