The model minority myth is a sociological phenomenon that refers to the stereotype of certain minority groups, particularly Asian Americans, as successful, and well-adjusted, as demonstrating that there is little or no need for social or economic assistance for the same or different minority groups. The model minority stereotype emerged in the United States in the 1960s and has perpetuated notions that other minority groups can achieve the same success through hard work and that discrimination and systemic barriers do not impede upward mobility. The model minority myth has been widely criticized as over simplistic and misleading, and for being used to justify discriminatory policies and neglect of marginalized communities.
The term "model minority" is often traced to a prominent The New York Times article in 1966 by sociologist William Petersen ("Success Story, Japanese-American Style") to describe the Japanese American community, which had experienced significant economic and educational success after World War II. The term was later applied to other Asian American groups, including Chinese, Korean, and Indian Americans, who were also seen as highly educated and successful. The stereotype has been perpetuated by United States media, academia, and popular culture, and was often used to compare them to other minority groups, such as African Americans and Latinos. A famous example was the 1987 Time magazine which featured a cover photo of, "Those Asian American WHIZ KIDS."
Critics of the model minority myth argue that it oversimplifies complex issues of race, class, and discrimination, and ignores the many obstacles that Asian Americans and other minority groups face. This can lead to a neglect of policies and programs that address systemic barriers of success and can also contribute to inter-minority tensions and further discrimination.
Selective immigration has also been a factor, as many Asian American immigrants who are highly educated are often selected through student visas for higher education, H1-B skill-based visas, or merit-based immigration systems that favors those with advanced degrees or specialized skills. This has led to a concentration of highly educated and successful Asian Americans in certain professions, such as medicine, engineering, and technology. The reality is that many Asian American groups face discrimination and poverty, with particular Asian American groups having poverty rates higher than that of European Americans.