Republican Outreach to Asian-American Voters Continues

After a catastrophic failure to attract Asian-American votes in the 2012 presidential election [1], the RNC has dedicated itself to capturing a larger share of this bloc; Jeb Bush has argued that Asian-Americans constitute a natural Republican constituency.[2]


Source: NPR (Sept. 16, 2015).

However, it’s not clear there’s yet been much progress. From Monkey Cage/WaPo:

When Joseph Choe, an Asian-American college student, stood up to ask a question about South Korea [at a No Labels conference], Donald Trump cut him off and wondered aloud: “Are you from South Korea?”

Choe responded, “I’m not. I was born in Texas, raised in Colorado.” His answer prompted laughter from the audience, and nothing more than a shrug from the GOP presidential candidate.


A fellow conference attendee who walked by Choe subsequently joked, “You’re gonna have to show him your birth certificate, man!”

A study by Kuo, Malhotra, and Mo is summarized thusly:

We posit that rhetoric from Republicans insinuating that nonwhite “takers” are taking away from white “makers,” as well as their strong anti-immigrant positions, has cultivated a perception that the Republican Party is less welcoming of minorities. Since the Democratic Party is seen as less exclusionary, we find that triggering feelings of social exclusion makes Asian Americans favor Democrats.

We conducted an experiment in which Asian Americans were brought into a university laboratory. Half were randomly subjected to a seemingly benign racial microaggression like Trump’s clueless remarks to Choe before being asked to fill out a political survey. The white assistant was instructed to tell half of the study participants, “I’m sorry. I forgot that this study is only for US citizens. Are you a US citizen? I cannot tell.”

Asian Americans who were exposed to this race-based presumption of “not belonging” were more likely to identify strongly as a Democrat. They were also more likely to view Republicans generally as close-minded and ignorant, less likely to represent people like them, and to have more negative feelings toward them.

I think it’s wrong to say that these types of alienating comments are specific to Mr. Trump. Other candidates have also made statements unlikely to help garner Asian-American support (NPR):

“They’re seeing which party seems like a welcoming party, which party seems like an exclusionary party,” said Ramakrishnan. He added, it doesn’t help when a Republican presidential candidate like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush attempts to clarify his use of the term “anchor babies” — which many Latinos find offensive — by redirecting the conversation to Asians.

“[Bush] did it in a way that cast an entire stereotype that this is how the Asian-American community is,” said Christine Chen, director of Asian-Pacific American Islander Vote, a nonpartisan organization that mobilizes Asian voters. “The Asian-American electorate is immediately starting to take note of all the China bashing, the comments with Jeb Bush as well as the current criticism of China.”

This is a somewhat different perspective than the one I laid out three years ago.

Update, 11/4, 7am Pacific: An interesting take by a Republican Asian American, from the Daily Caller. Take a look at the text in bold face, as the writer tries to educate her fellow Republicans. (I can only imagine her frustration…)

87 thoughts on “Republican Outreach to Asian-American Voters Continues

  1. PeakTrader

    Why is asking an Asian-American asking a question about South Korea “Are you from South Korea?” a “clueless remark?”

    There are a lot more foreign born – legal and illegal – residents in the U.S. today, including college students.

    What if the student said he’s South Korean, Chinese, or Vietnamese attending school in the U.S. and wants to be a U.S. citizen someday?

    I’m sure, Trump would’ve welcomed him as long as he did it legally.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Peak Trader: If you wonder about the answer to this question, then I think you should ask if Trump would have asked a caucasian asking about the UK the same question, with equal probability. If you say “yes”, then I think you are clearly in denial.

        1. sherparick

          Actually, quite a few of have been, particularly Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Poland since the crisis. 6.3% of undocumented immigrants were born in Europe or Canada apparently. About 12% are Asian.

          You can tell that someone gets their info from the Right Wing “Borg” when they start the sentence “Huge numbers … ” The country has population of 320 million people or thereabouts right now. 11 million undocumented immigrants is about a city a little smaller than New York, but is still only about 4% of the total number of people in the country.

          1. PeakTrader

            Sherparick, your own data show twice as many illegal immigrants come from Asia than both Europe and Canada (and what about legal immigrants?).

            I’ve never heard anyone say there are fewer than 11 million undocumented immigrants (since the early 2000s). Yet, the border control estimates 18 to 20 million, while the former ambassador to Mexico, Arturo Sarukhan, says 30 million.

            How many tens of millions of legal and illegal immigrants would you consider “huge?”

      1. Steven Kopits

        If a white person with a British accent asked Trump about US policy towards the UK, yes, I would expected Trump to ask if that person was British. And if a white person with a Russian accent had asked about Crimea, I would have been shocked if Trump did not ask about his background. Finally, if a guy wearing a Seahawks cap asked about Tom Brady, well….

        On the other hand, had the Korean student asked about Obamacare, I would have been shocked had Trump asked about the student’s background. But he didn’t. To all appearances, a Korean was asking about Korean issues. I. too, would probably have inquired about the speaker’s background.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Steven Kopits: Thanks. I often get asked “where I come from”, speaking in what I believe can be characterized as a neutral American accent, and typically not when I am talking about Chinese economic policy. So your expectations are different than mine…and I think my actions would be commensurately different as well.

        2. baffling

          steven, i would imagine with Choe born in texas and raised in colorado, he had a accent not reminiscent of a korean accent. he simply looked different, and as such was treated different. not really how we want to interact in a diverse society.

          1. PeakTrader

            Baffling, if 74% of blue-eyed blonde people are foreign-born, like Asians, and one of them asks a question about Sweden, particularly a passionate question, is it unreasonable to ask “Are you from Sweden?”

            And, how do you know the person asking the question isn’t a plant, e.g. by another campaign, and how do you know he was actually born in Texas?

            Anyway, do you really trust NPR to provide honesty and neutrality in anything political?

          2. Menzie Chinn Post author

            PeakTrader: I’m sorry, I don’t understand your first sentence. It seems to be saying either that 74% of Asians are foreign born, or 74% of Asians are blue-eyed blonde people. Please clarify. Thanks in advance.

          3. PeakTrader

            Menzie Chinn, I was responding to Baffling’s statement: “He simply looked different.” The link I posted above shows 74% of Asian-Americans 18 and older are foreign born. What if 74% of blue-eyed blond Americans 18 and older (not Asians) were foreign born?

          4. Menzie Chinn Post author

            PeakTrader: Ah, thanks. Now I understand what you were trying to say. My guess: the frequency of the question “where are you from” for blue-eyed blonde Americans would be lower than for the corresponding group of Asians. I think we could run an experiment to verify, sort of like the experiments run in the paper.

          5. PeakTrader

            Menzie Chinn, you’re certainly better at that than me. I haven’t done that kind of work, since school.

          6. baffling

            “And, how do you know the person asking the question isn’t a plant, e.g. by another campaign, and how do you know he was actually born in Texas?”

            conspiracy theorists unite. just like a black man named barrack obama could not have been born in the USA. he looks different (obama and choe) so he must be different. that is the first assumption made. it is a very poor way of looking at the world. if it is a valid question, what difference does it make where the person originates from? unless you believe in worldwide conspiracies…

            and how do i know he was actually born in texas? because he said so. why should i assume he lied, because he looked different?

          7. Menzie Chinn Post author

            PeakTrader: By the way, what do you think of my estimate of Korean net immigration, 2010-13? You did not respond. Does Mr. Trump’s query still make perfect sense to you?

          8. PeakTrader

            Menzie Chinn, I think, the bigger question is can someone who isn’t racist and sexist, but is instead realistic, honest, and fair, be perceived as racist and sexist?

            Obviously yes.

            It reminds me of one of my grad econ classes when the only girl in class told me “Economics is sexist.”

            And, you know economists egos tower alongside Donald Trump’s.

          9. Menzie Chinn Post author

            PeakTrader: My experience is that most academic economists are pretty down-to-earth sorts. But maybe that’s just the people I associate with.

          10. PeakTrader

            Menzie Chinn, I knew a Marxist economist, who looked at economics like her garden she worked in (the weak plants need more fertilizer, etc.). She was down to earth 🙂

  2. Steven Kopits

    Yes, the GOP is the party of exclusion. That’s why, of its top five candidates, two are Hispanic, one is black, and one is a woman. And Jeb’s wife is Mexican.

    For Asians, the calculus is very simple. Their incomes are 20% higher than those of whites. If they want to support high spending and taxation, they will certainly have a chance to pay for it.

      1. Steven Kopits

        You’re saying that for Asians money doesn’t matter. That’s not my experience.

        But I think you are capturing the debate between the high income liberals and the remaining middle class. For high income liberals, another $1 / gallon for gasoline is great. For the middle class, it means no eating out this Friday; no soccer camp for Jimmy. Believe me, the guys in the middle do understand they are being victimized by liberals from whom money is not an issue. All they have to do is check their Obamacare premiums.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Steven Kopits: I did not say “money doesn’t matter” for Asian Americans. Please provide a specific quote and URL where I wrote that, to back up your assertion. What I said, and what I think is generally accepted, is a realistic utility function could plausibly encompass other things besides consumption goods.

          1. Steven Kopits

            Look, it’s simple. Either money matters and you can vote for the (ostensibly) small government party. Or it doesn’t and you won’t.

            But I firmly agree that Republicans should be a party of principles, not of ethnic or religious groups. As you know, I welcome anyone to the US who supports themselves and obeys the laws. It’s also helpful (but not necessary) to be polite. The Chinese and other East Asians qualify on all counts, if we are speaking in generalities. There is no reason Asians should feel excluded. There is no reason for anyone to feel excluded.

          2. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Steven Kopits: Thank you for verifying that you attributed to me a statement I never in fact made.

            It’s a good aspiration that the Republican party should be the party of principles. And I believe that the Republican party is a party of principles. I’ll let others state what they think those principles are.

            So far, I think “walls” are a big one.

        2. Robert Hurley

          Steven if be interested in what you think a better health insurance policy would be with examples of where such a policy works

          1. Steven Kopits

            If you put me to the wall, I’d probably go with wide-scale medical liberalization a la Tyler Cowen.

            If we assume that’s not feasible, then I would go with a hard budget constraint on Medicare (ie, X% of GDP). Right now, the old are gutting the young. Middle class people who aren’t eligible for subsidies are effectively losing coverage through high deductibles to pay for very high levels of care for seniors. In any event, it’s a bigger topic for another time.

        3. baffling

          “All they have to do is check their Obamacare premiums.”
          i work for a large employer, and we are self insured. obamacare did not affect us before or after its implementation. premium costs still were rising. so who should take the blame for this situation-one that affects far more workers health insurance than the obamacare excuse being pandered falsely?

      2. Steven Kopits

        Let me try to characterize accurately:

        You are implying that the majority of Asian voters prefer higher taxes and a sense of social inclusion and possibly more public spending. I got that the first time. I am merely making the point that they will have the privilege of disproportionately carrying the load.

        As for walls, yes, I believe all countries have the right to determine the conditions for the entry and stay for aliens. That’s true for China, Dubai, Senegal and the United States, too.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Steven Kopits: No, that’s not an accurate characterization. I would say a utility function could be written as U = U(x,y), where one of the arguments is a composite good, and another might be a sense of social inclusion. Then it’s not a matter of preferring higher taxes/spending and social inclusion, it would be (as in standard micro theory) a marginal rate of substitution between two goods. I.e., there’s a tradeoff.

          As I said, “walls” seem to be a key tenet of the Republican party; I am glad you agree. I await the addition of “moats”.

          1. Steven Kopits

            You can have whatever utility function you want. If you’re a high income earner and vote Democrat, you will pay the bills.

            As for moats, I’d love a moat. Little pricey, though. And who would do the maintenance? Wait, I know. Hire some Mexicans.

    1. Anonymous

      While I think you shouldn’t have “outreach to XYZ group” and instead just do what is best for all citizens of this country, if they were to play this game, Republicans should reach out to Asians (and if it is true their incomes are 20% higher, I didn’t check) by framing it as “My Asian friends, the democrats are coming for your money.”

    2. Benamery21

      A big chunk in higher median household income for Asian-Americans is larger average household size. It’s much more common for multiple generations of Indian-Americans, for instance, to live together despite making decent individual incomes, than it is for many other demographic groups. There is also a geographic skew to areas of the country with higher cost of living. The percentage of Asian-Americans in poverty is substantially higher than in the non-Hispanic white population.

  3. Steven Kopits

    And by the way, did you see Angus Deaton’s work on worsening mortality for white middle aged men?

    You remember that conversation we had about guns and my comment that the number of suicides looks high? There’s a public policy issue just screaming for attention. It’s not just guns; suicides are also occurring through alcohol and drugs.

    1. sherparick

      Yes, here is is.

      It demonstrates the problem of voting based on tribal affinity rather than on one’s economic interests, as the white working class has done, can kill you.

      Again, a lovely example of what the last 35 years of Movement Conservatism and Neoliberalism have done to the country as the life expectancy standing of the U.S. has been falling relative to the rest of the world since 1980 (and who got elected that year?)

  4. Bruce Hall

    I like generalizations. By saying “Asian-Americans” we lump together Eastern Asians, Southern Asians, and Western Asians. Now if my geography studies of 60-years ago served me well, Asia was a fairly large continent with pretty diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious attributes. So, when we say “Asian-Americans” do we mean the same thing as saying “Africans”? How about “South Americans”? Obviously, when we say “North Americans” we mean everything north of the Rio Grande.

    So, should the GOP (and Democrats) keep “Asians” out of their political parties because they are terrorists and communists and practice a caste system and keep out foreign-made automobiles and, oh, I forgot the Siberians, but they don’t really matter? By the way, have you stopped beating your wife? Will someone from Pakistan get upset if I ask them how things are in India and should I care? All these and other important questions can be answered at

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Bruce Hall: I do not believe I ever characterized Asian-Americans as a monolithic group; if I have, please provide cite and corresponding URL. The Pew study I cited in an earlier post indicated the cross-ethnicity variation in political views. I would say the Filipino and Vietnamese stand out in lower voting rates for Obama (likely only the latter statistically significantly, but that’s just a guess), but the other groupings are pretty close together in rates.

      I don’t understand the point of your last paragraph. I am merely making a set of empirical observation, and your defensive reaction signifies to me you understand that there is a perception on the part of Asian Americans, even if you argue it doesn’t exist.

      1. Bruce Hall

        Menzie, which “Asian Americans”? That’s my point. Is it only 75-180 degrees east or does it include the rest of Asia? “Asian Americans” is a non-specific term.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Bruce Hall: Henceforth, I will then diligently work to expunge my vocabulary of the terms “Latin Americans”, “African Americans”, and to redefine my use of the term “North American”. Not really. Wow. Just, wow.

          1. Bruce Hall


            So, you would rather use vague terms in analyzing social and economic issues? Doesn’t pass the academic test.

            How about “a sample of 1,000 American citizens with Chinese, Japanese, and Korean ancestry revealed….”

            Or “a sample of 1,000 American citizens with southeast and far east Asian ancestry revealed….”

            Or “a sample of 1,000 American citizens with ancestry from all parts of Asia revealed….”

            Or “a sample of 1,000 American citizens with ancestry from sub-Sahara revealed….”

            Or “a sample of 1,000 Americans with ancestry from Mexico and Latin America revealed….”

            I’m half “Asian”. My ancestors on my mother’s side were Armenians… definitely Asians. Or don’t you understand the distinctions?

          2. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Bruce Hall: I for one am happy to welcome you to the community of Asian Americans. Welcome, brother!

            (Even if Wikipedia does list Armenia as a transcontinental country…)

  5. Ricardo

    This whole thread is based on faulty progressive reasoning. Dividing people into classes and then attempting to pander to them for votes is the biggest absurdity of the progressive movement but it often seems to work. But I would hold that it works because Republican get into a bidding war with Democrats over who can pander the most. That is a battle Republicans will always lose.

    People do not immigrate to the United States to be shoe-horned into political groups. People see the United States as a city on a hill giving a each a chance at freedom. Asians have leaned Republican because they same Republicans protecting their right to freedom and property rights. They are now shifting toward Democrats because
    Republicans have become abandoned the guarantee of rights and liberty and freedom, our liberal democracy, in an attempt to become as progressive as Democrats. Asians will not take the pretender to the thrown when the real thing exists.

  6. BC

    The US is a one-party, rentier-socialist, militarist-imperialist corporate-state (some might say fascist by historical precedent). The electorate does not “choose” the CEO of the corporate-state; rather, the electorate (those who bother to show up at the polls or mail their ballots) only affirms the vetted candidate “selected” by the Power Elite top 0.001%-funded star chamber and mass-media propaganda circus apparatus, the job of which is to condition us with mass-media messaging to believe that we “choose” our rulers and their ministerial intellectual and technocratic intercessors who act in the interest of their benefactors.

    We’re all adults. We don’t need to be pacified by childish fairy tales, although the Power Elite and their ministerial intellectuals think otherwise.

    George Carlin had the last word on the subject of voting (if one doesn’t vote, then one has every right to complain about the “choices” made by those who did vote), which was preceded by the episode, “Free for All,” of the 1960s cult program, “The Prisoner.”

    Where am I?

    You are in The Village?

    Whose side are you on?

    That would be telling?

    Who are you?

    I am the new Number 2.

    Who is Number 1?

    You are Number 6.

    I am not a number, I’m a free man!

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!

    Be seeing you . . .

  7. BC

    BTW, there exists today sufficiently powerful and sophisticated machine-learning Big Data analytics/intelligent systems to take the words of a politician, parse them, and analyze the words, phrases, inflection, etc., to then present to which ideology the speaker is aligned, to whom the speaker is pandering, vet the speech for facts, how likely the message is to resonate with the intended audience and/or alienate the oppostion, and so much more.

    Politicians are already obsolete, as intelligent systems can virtually anticipate what any candidate will say, how, to whom, and how the audience will perceive and respond (and how the mass media will attempt to frame the message, response, etc.).

    Divide and conquer will become must easier and cost effective for the top 0.001% in the near future, if not already.

  8. Joseph

    Bruce Hall: “Obviously, when we say “North Americans” we mean everything north of the Rio Grande.”

    Obviously, we can see why Republicans have a “Hispanic problem.”

    1. Anonymous

      You mean Democrats right? The party who has no minority candidates for president? There are two Hispanics running for President and they are both Republicans.

      1. Menzie Chinn Post author

        Anonymous aka Future President Donald Trump aka Scott Walker, American Patriot and Freedom Fighter aka BUT THE MODELS SHOW US!! aka (xo poa) aka YOLO! aka JS aka Joe: And an African-American, not only this time, but last time too! What happened to them? But we don’t see news reports of presidential nominee Herman Cain, so…let’s wait and see.

      2. baffling

        “The party who has no minority candidates for president? There are two Hispanics running for President and they are both Republicans.”

        in case you were unaware, the Democrats actually ran a minority candidate for President and WON. come back when you actually put a minority candidate into office.

      3. Bellanson

        nobody seems to have noticed that North America includes Mexico, not just “countries north of Rio Grande”

    2. Bruce Hall

      Joseph, does one have to come out an say, “I’m being sarcastic”? What I was attempting to point out in that comment and other subsequent comments was the use of “common” designations are not very accurate or definitive. Do you mean Chinese, Japanese, and Korean when you say “Asian”? Can you include the smaller nations south of China? How about India? Mongolia? Russia? Pakistan? Well, then how about Iran? Armenia, Iraq? If none of the latter, then why can’t Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, et al be excluded from North America?

      I realize that this article was more about politics than economics and political definitions tend to be quite sloppy… and prone to the question, “What do you mean?”

      For the purpose of this article, I’ll go with the flow and define “Asian” as ethnic groups originating east of 90-degrees east longitude to the Pacific Ocean and south of 40-degrees north latitude to China Sea. So we are excluding those Russians and Mongolians and Indians and troublesome Pakistanis and everything west to the Black Sea and Ural Mountains. Those pesky non-Europeans/non-Asians are of little concern to the rest of the world.

  9. Rick Stryker

    Asian-Americans need to understand that it is the Democrats who are truly exclusionary. I have many Asian-American friends who do not seem to be aware of the extent that liberal Democrats who run elite Universities discriminate against them for admissions purposes. It’s a scandal that people don’t talk about.

    I recommend to my Asian-American friends who don’t believe this is really happening to open their eyes and look at the students’ qualifications who were rejected for admission. If they still don’t believe it, I recommend reading Princeton University sociologist Thomas Espenshade’s book, “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal,” in which he documents the discrimination against Asians at elite universities more systematically.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Rick Stryker: Gee, I’ve been on admissions committees at high-ranked universities. I didn’t get the memo…

      Yours sincerely,
      Menzie Chinn
      A.B., magna cum laude, Harvard University

      1. Rick Stryker


        People who discriminate don’t send memos. That’s not how discrimination works. People who discriminate are usually not aware they are doing it and will deny it when confronted with evidence.

        The discriminator allows his subtle biases to creep into his decisions. Whether as an employer or a member of an admissions committee, the discriminator is looking for someone like himself. Admissions committee members at elite universities may not realize it, but they are looking for students who reflect their white, elitist, progressive culture. When confronted with Asian students, they rationalize to themselves, “This student is very strong academically, but he looks like he spent all his time studying. We don’t want grinds here. We’re looking for tomorrow’s leaders. They do extracurricular activities we approve of. They write essays espousing the values we are looking for. They show leadership. We are trying to create the right mix of students at our university.” That’s how a very highly academically proficient Asian student gets passed over for a less strong student. The Admissions committee doesn’t think it’s discriminating. It thinks it’s serving the university and the university community.

        Liberal Democrats who control the universities are discriminating against Asians. Espenshade shows the evidence for that in his book but it’s obvious this is happening. Asian-Americans should take a fresh look at the Republican Party, a party of opportunity for them.

          1. Anonymous

            Rick, you don’t seem to get that because Menzie went to Harvard, Asians are not discriminated against in admissions.

          2. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Anonymous aka Future President Donald Trump aka Scott Walker, American Patriot and Freedom Fighter aka BUT THE MODELS SHOW US!! aka (xo poa) aka YOLO! aka JS aka Joe: Just observing that I might have some insight into this issue, given my position in society. If you are Asian-American and went to an “elite university” (however Rick Stryker defines it), please weigh in with your personal insights.

          3. Asian with 4.0 and a perfect SAT rejected by Harvard

            No Menzie, you don’t have insight on this issue just because you’re Asian and went to a highly prestigious school. That alone does not make your opinion more important or correct. The facts are Asians have to have better scores than other races to gain admission to the same schools. It’s not really debatable.

            According to a 2009 study by sociologists Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford, Asian Americans must score 140 points higher on the SAT to have the same chance at admission to private colleges as whites. – See more at:

            I think I’m going to post a new name every time here just so I can have a good chuckle every time you bother to post them all like you’re doing some brilliant expose.

          4. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Asian with 4.0 and a perfect SAT rejected by Harvard aka Anonymous aka Future President Donald Trump aka Scott Walker, American Patriot and Freedom Fighter aka BUT THE MODELS SHOW US!! aka (xo poa) aka YOLO! aka JS aka Joe: OK. I will do a swipe of my brain and obliterate all information I have from personal experience. I can hardly wait to hear your views when you do something similar.

            One question: Why do people keep on citing Espenshade? That’s the second time; how about a little diversity in citations?

            Look forward to hearing your other monikers. I think I can keep up.

        1. baffling

          “That’s how a very highly academically proficient Asian student gets passed over for a less strong student. ”

          as usual, we get the stryker spin on the situation. a university is allowed to have its own metric for evaluating talent. it is not necessary that it obtain rick stryker’s approval for its metrics and decision making. we all know that approval would be beneficial, because rick is fair and open minded about most situations. if rick defines a candidate as less strong, then it must be true. period. no other input or interpretation needed.

      2. Bruce Hall

        Menzie, I’m guessing to what Rick Stryker was referring is:

        and possibly

        His point is clear: East/south Asians should be pissed at progressive policies that punish high achievement for the sake of agenda.

    2. Steven Kopits

      Rick –

      You are implicitly referring to a policy of numerus clausus , which seeks to limit the ratios of students at an institution (usually universities) to no more than their share of the population. Such policies were used in eastern Europe to limit the enrollment of Jews in universities. These policies are inevitably conservative, not egalitarian. The are about protecting the majority, not promoting a minority. The egalitarian version is, of course, affirmative action, which seeks to insure the inclusion of certain minorities, but does not explicitly seek to exclude anyone. So, let’s look at student body composition by ideology.

      First, let’s assume a population of 1000, of which 20% are blacks and Latino; 10% are Asian; and 70% are white. Assume for purposes of illustration only that Asians are 3x more likely to be qualified for university than whites, and whites are 3x more likely to be qualified than blacks and Latinos. Let’s assume they are all vying for 100 university seats.

      A Liberal (Merit-based) System
      In a merit based system, we would expect that each qualified candidate has an equal chance of being accepted. Under the assumptions above, in the qualified pool, Asians would represent about 35%, whites about 61%, and blacks and Latinos about 4%. Thus, Asians, who represent 10% of the population, would be 3.5x over-represented at the university. Whites would be 13% under-represented, comprising 70% of the population, but only 61% of the student body. Blacks and Latinos would be 4.6x under-represented, at 20% of the population but only 4.4% of the student body.

      Numerus clausus
      In a numerus clausus system, only qualified applicants can attend university, but no group should exceed their pro rata share of the population. Under the assumptions above, in this system, blacks and Latinos actually do better, because their share of qualified applicants is less than their share of population. Thus, all qualified blacks and Latinos are accepted, raising their share of the student body to 12.6%, while they comprise 20% of the population. The remaining slots are allocated to whites and Asians by their pro rata shares of the population. Whites garner 7/8ths of the remaining seats, and Asians, 1/8th. This converts into 77 seats for whites and 11 seats for Asians. Note that both whites and Asians are over-represented, in the latter case, only marginally. Compared to a liberal system, however, whites have gained 16 seats, and Asians have lost a whopping 24.

      Affirmative Action
      In a stylized system using an affirmative action model, we might expect to see blacks and Latinos accepted at their shares of the population, regardless of qualification. Thus, these two groups would constitute 20% of the student body. The remainder would be split according to share of qualified candidates. In such an event, both whites and Asians would lose 16% of their seats. Asians would still hold 29 seats, that is, still almost 3x over-represented in the population. Whites would hold 51 seats, and would be 27% under-represented compared to their share of the population. So whites do worst under affirmative action, relative to their share of population. (Makes you wonder about Deaton’s suicide study.)

      Now, in the real world of college admissions, a University’s admissions staff has to make some real world choices. What kind of college do you want? All grinders? Free thinkers? Conformists? Iconoclasts? Liberal arts? Sciences? Fine arts? Men? Women? In making these decisions, many factors come into play. Some of this is science, some is art. Not all of it may be straight meritocracy as dictated by the SATs.

      For heavily over-represented groups, the outcome may be unfair in terms of strict academic merit. If Asians by merit should be 35% of the student body, perhaps you limit them to 27%. They are still heavily over-represented, but one in every five qualified Asian applicants can rightly argue that they have been discriminated against, at least in terms of resume achievement.

      This problem will become more acute. In the last ten years, Chinese students have started coming to the US in large numbers, and they are critical to the viability of our academic institutions. But what will Harvard do when they receive, say, 40,000 highly qualified applications from China and India? I can assure you, some kind of pretty explicit numerus clausus policy will come into play. And if it does, what does that auger for Asian Americans citizens of this country? For those who think academic discrimination against Asian Americans is bad now, well, it could get quite a bit worse.

      1. Rick Stryker


        Thanks. That’s very nice analysis and I think consistent with the empirical evidence. We do have some comparisons as some school systems have eliminated race-based admission practices. The University of California system is one such example. Spearheaded by a Republican governor, Pete Wilson, Republican African-American businessman and University Regent Ward Connerly, and the conservative Claremont Institute, Proposition 209 in 1996 amended the California state constitution to prohibit race-based policies in government institutions. We find that UCLA and Berkeley’ percentage of Asian students is in the mid-30s.

        We also have cases in which a school chooses to eliminate race-based admission standards. Caltech has chosen to do that and Asian enrollment has climbed from around 25% in the early 90s to over 40% today. Similarly, Hunter College High School in NY has pure merit-based admissions, resulting in a student body that is around 50% Asian. Thomas Jefferson High in Va has well over 60% Asian enrollment. These are both elite high schools.

        Contrast that with the record of the Ivys, where the enrolled Asian population stays consistently in the 15-18% range.

        I certainly agree with you that this problem for Asians will get worse over time. If Asian-Americans are worried about being excluded, they should re-assess their support for the Democratic Party.

  10. dilbert dogbert

    Back to the topic of why the rethuglican party does not attract asian-american voters. I think it is because they are a small voting block. The party focuses its attention on developing dog whistles for its base. Maybe in the future they will deploy some resources to develop dog whistles that attract asian-americans.

  11. Martin Ranger

    Anyone who does not understand that asking a non-white person where they are from when they (presumably) have a perfect Texas/Colorado accent is a racist himself. Plain and simple.

  12. john

    I am Asian and Republican. Having said that, I do understand why majority of Asians gravitate to the Democrat side. This is not unlike the Jews. When the Jews first came to the U.S., they too are treated like foreigners. Steven Spielberg, who graduated from my kid’s school, was bullied when he was there because he was Jewish. Now that he is famous, they are trying get him to come to the high school re-unions. He has refused. It is true that we Asians work hard to provide material for our family, no different then any group who started with nothing. However, like our Jewish counterparts, we value being treated as fellow countrymen more than high taxes, so we voted against our financial interest just as the Jews did by voting Democrat. All the China bashing did not help either. It is one thing to stand up for the students who wanted democracy in Tiananmen, but if you look at the rhetoric of the candidates, they are simply bashing China because they have succeeded economically, something that we likely won’t see for a country like Germany.

  13. Sam

    Voting for Democrats is in the financial interests of high income voters, excepting few of the wealthiest. It is a delusion to believe that we will have vigorous economic growth without a significant role for government services and investment. High income individuals of any race and ethnicity who vote Democratic are making the choice that best ensures long term prosperity. The Republican party is the party of special interests and monopolies. And the GOP’s definition of inclusion is pandering to groups that want to impose their religious practices on others and to white grievance. In 1968 and 1980, these seemed like brilliant tactics, but the result has been the acceptance of the sort of intellectual bankruptcy that passes serious policy discussion among too many conservatives, in my opinion.

  14. Rick Stryker


    You asked your readers to take a look at the bolded text in the politico article. But you glossed over some other text from the article that should have been bolded as well. I’ll repeat that text and bold it as it should have been:

    The other aspect of education which causes high anxiety among many Asian parents and their children is higher education. Many Asians have already known for years that their SAT scores need to be hundreds of points higher than applicants from other ethnic groups to have an equal chance of college admission. The USA Today reports that some Asian youths who have one non-Asian parent now choose not to check “Asian” as their race on their college applications, hoping to avoid discrimination.

    That’s exactly right. You want to deny that Asian-Americans are discriminated against by the progressive Democrats that run elite universities. You even make the illogical argument that because you were not discriminated against by Harvard, no other Asians are. But students are starting to wake up to what’s going on.

    Students for Fair Admissions, a non-profit composed of students and parents, is fighting back against the discrimination practiced by progressive Democrats who control elite universities. They have filed a lawsuit against Harvard University complaining about the racially discriminatory admissions standards of the Democrats in charge there.

    SFFA filed a lawsuit on behalf of an Asian student whose parents are from China. The student?

    #1 in his class on a weighted and unweighted GPA basis in a top 5% high school
    Perfect score of 86 on the ACT
    Perfect score of 800 on the SAT II math and SAT history
    AP scholar, national scholar, national merit semi-finalist
    Captain of the varsity tennis team and much volunteering

    This student had it all. Harvard’s answer: Denied

    The lawsuit makes for some informative reading, as it goes through Harvard’s history of discrimination, starting with Jewish Americans.

    The politico article mentions other issues, such as the poor public schools which are primarily run by Democrats. I’ll say it again. Asian Americans need to understand that the Democratic Party is bad for them.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Rick Stryker: Hah, hah. Guess it’s just a massive failure of rational expectations that Asian Americans don’t understand who’s really their friend.

      1. Rick Stryker

        No, not the failure of rational expectations. I would attribute it to the success of propaganda. If Asians think Republicans are more exclusionary, they should reflect on how exclusionary it is to be denied admission to a University because you are a member of the wrong race. Republicans need to remind Asian-Americans who sent Japanese-Americans to concentration camps during WWII, the majority of whom were American citizens, because of the belief that they weren’t loyal Americans. It was a Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, who did that.

        Republicans should remind Asians that it was a Republican Alan Simpson, working with a Japanese-American Democrat, who sponsored the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which was signed by Republican President Ronald Reagan. (Admittedly, the majority of Republicans voted against it.) This act authorized paying reparations and noted that the interment was based on “race prejudice and war hysteria.”

        President George H.W. Bush followed up with additional reparations and said on the 50th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor:

        “In remembering, it is important to come to grips with the past. No nation can fully understand itself or find its place in the world if it does not look with clear eyes at all the glories and disgraces of its past. We in the United States acknowledge such an injustice in our history. The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry was a great injustice, and it will never be repeated.”

        Republicans need to clarify the record. Then they need to focus on the issues that Asian-Americans care about, showing how the Democratic Party is bad for them. And Republicans need to get a rational immigration policy–and send Trump back to the Democratic party, where he belongs.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Rick Stryker: I see. The naive, guileless Asian Americans have been misled by propaganda, while knowledgeable well-meaning non-Asian-American voters understand their interests and the Nation’s interests and vote appropriately for Republicans in Wisconsin (I throw that in, since you have stated that Scott Walker is your favorite). And, of course, the wise leaders of the Republican party don’t mean to offend with statements about dog meat and political ads with people (of Asian ethnicity) speaking in pidgin English. I hear you saying: That’s all meant in fun — don’t be so offended! I think you should acknowledge the true face of a large part of the activist base of the party you associate yourself with. You may not like admitting it, but you’ve made your decision, and put weights on the principles you hold most important.

          Oh, we should be talking about the party stances of today, not the errors of the past, of which there are plenty on both sides. For instance, Chinese-Americans can remember which president signed into law the Exclusion Laws.

          Really, Rick, stop deluding yourself about the nature of the parties today. May you then find some enlightenment.

    2. baffling

      have you looked at the statistics of a harvard freshman class?

      half of the class had a perfect 4.0 or higher gpa. the average SAT scores for math, writing and reading was over 740 each, for a composite average of 2228. the entire class is basically in the top 10% ranking. check out the gpa vs sat plot in the link above. notice they are all basically in the top right corner. in this context, there were a lot of students who entered harvard with academic qualifications similar to what you posted. over 30,000 applicants in total. they admit about 2,000 and matriculate about 1,600.

      now i do not have the data to tell me how many of the students who applied with similar credentials were denied. but i can say that the student you described would not be considered singular at harvard. it is safe to say many other “strong candidates” were also denied. harvard enrolls approximately 6% or less of its applicants. many institutions, particularly those with a large number of “high statistic” candidates, have decided that diversity is also an important aspect of a positive and dynamic academic environment. SAT scores are an indicator, but not the only metric for future performance.

  15. Rick Stryker

    Let’s keep in mind that it was a Democrat who put Japanese-Americans in concentration camps in WWII

  16. Rick Stryker

    Here’s a good case study illustrating what I’m talking about: the case of Henry Park.

    Park is the son of middle-class Korean immigrants who made big financial sacrifices to send their son to the famous prep school, Groton, in the mistaken idea that that would help Henry get into an elite school. Henry was highly successful at Groton. He graduated 14th in his class and got a 1560 out of 1600 on the SAT. He played violin, was on the cross-country team, and co-authored a math paper with 2 classmates.

    Henry was denied admission at Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, MIT, and Brown. However, 34 of his classmates were accepted to Ivy league universities. The non-Asian student who Henry co-authored the paper with, who had a very similar academic profile, was accepted to Harvard, presumably because he was a legacy.

    Henry’s guidance counselor, understanding the situation for what it really is, discouraged him from applying to Harvard or any top college, despite his academic achievements. The guidance counselor was right.

    Denying admission to people like Henry Park is the policy of progressive Democrats who control these elite institutions.

  17. Rick Stryker


    Just wanted to comment on your point to anonymous above:

    “Just observing that I might have some insight into this issue, given my position in society. If you are Asian-American and went to an “elite university” (however Rick Stryker defines it), please weigh in with your personal insights.”

    I thought you it would be helpful to consider a different perspective then. Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt, who is certainly no conservative and whose wife is Chinese , commented on the Princeton admissions process in “The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges-And Who Gets Left Out.”

    “I tend to feel in my gut that there is an anti-Asian policy. There are many non-Asians with lower SAT scores admitted to the Ivy League. A lot of Asians have been rejected with far higher SATs than non-Asians who have been accepted. Within the Asian community, of which I am a part, there’s this feeling that, for you to get into Harvard or Princeton, you’ve got to be better than everyone else.”

    “We had several frank discussions with the Administration. It was kind of a standoff. We told them ‘We’re really conscious of it.’ But there was nothing we could do. They would say that academic criteria aren’t the only thing they use and it’s useful to have different cultures here. (they said) ‘You wouldn’t want half the campus to be Chinese?’ Well, why not?”

    Why not indeed? The Administration is telling Reinhardt that “you wouldn’t want half the campus to be Chinese.” But we are supposed to believe that they are not discriminating?

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Rick Stryker: Just trying to figure out. Is that your personal observation as an Asian American and/or at an elite university. Not to minimize Uwe Reinhardt’s story, but the point that Asian with 4.0 and a perfect SAT rejected by Harvard aka Anonymous aka Future President Donald Trump aka Scott Walker, American Patriot and Freedom Fighter aka BUT THE MODELS SHOW US!! aka (xo poa) aka YOLO! aka JS aka Joe was making was that I had no right to even mention my insights from personal experience (of course that doesn’t stop Asian with 4.0 and a perfect SAT rejected by Harvard aka Anonymous aka Future President Donald Trump aka Scott Walker, American Patriot and Freedom Fighter aka BUT THE MODELS SHOW US!! aka (xo poa) aka YOLO! aka JS aka Joe from making judgments based on his/her experience).

      I’d say the best way to get the ratios “right” would be to get rid of legacies at elite universities. But I don’t know if the Federal government could legally impose such a diktat applied to private universities.

      1. Rick Stryker


        I made no personal observation in my comment, as I think is clear. Instead, I quoted Uwe Reinhardt, who has the same perspective that I do. I’m asking you how you square your perspective with Reinhardt’s. Is he wrong? Is he wrong that the Administration suggested to him that if they didn’t hold the Asian population down at Princeton, there would be too many Asians there, which the Administration doesn’t think is a good idea? Did he mishear that statement? Is there a way to interpret that statement that doesn’t involve discrimination against Asians if Reinhardt heard it accurately?

        Also, do you the think anyone that Reinhardt was talking with is a Republican?

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Rick Stryker: Ok, glad to hear I’m allowed my personal insights.

          Reinhardt has a story. I believe he experienced it. Is an anecdote proof? What is discrimination? Are all administrators at what you call “elite” universities Democrats? I sincerely doubt it. Just like I’m pretty sure some of my colleagues at UW in the Economics Department and at La Follette are Republicans — I don’t ask, although some write op-eds that do tell. You really have to get rid of these caricatures you have of “elite” universities (or maybe UW doesn’t count as elite in your book).

          1. Rick Stryker


            I think UW Madison is an excellent university but I had in mind a different category in my comments–elite universities, although I think discrimination against Asians is a problem in maybe the top 30. By elite, I mean Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Chicago, Duke, MIT, Hopkins, and UPenn. I know people disagree on which universities should be on this list but just to be clear what I’m talking about, this is my list.

            I have recent personal experience with admission into these universities as well, having gone through the admissions process for one child and gearing up to do it again for a second child. We got very heavily into the admissions process, talked to counselors, former admissions officials, etc. I know whom among my child’s friends got in to which universities and what their relative qualifications were. So, I have a personal perspective as well, since my child was aiming for this level.

            At this level, it’s very, very difficult to get in purely on merit. The problem is that so many admission spots are already taken by the categories that the University wants to reserve that you simply don’t have a lot of open slots to play with. One former admissions official at one of these universities told me that perhaps 70% of the applicants are fully qualified academically to attend and yet they can only take a small fraction of that pool. No one applying to universities in my elite category can be assured of getting in, no matter how strong the academic record. You generally need more than just a very strong academic record.

            My child was rejected by some schools on my list and accepted by others. I don’t want to say where this child is attending but I will say it’s one of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, or Stanford. So my experience in this regard in not just theoretical.

            My experience with watching how this process played out is consistent with Asian students having to satisfy a higher standard. That happens because the universities want to limit the fraction of the Asian student population but Asians are heavily overrepresented in very high academic achievement.

  18. baffling

    first, to use an example from a student who graduated in 1998 is a bit of a stretch.

    “Henry’s guidance counselor, understanding the situation for what it really is, discouraged him from applying to Harvard or any top college, despite his academic achievements. The guidance counselor was right.”

    wrong. he was accepted and attended johns hopkins and carnegie mellon. not sure what world you live in, but those are two of the premier universities in the country. in fact, the world.

    i find it interesting how a political hack repeatedly notes how it is progressive democrats who run these elite institutions so poorly. it begs the question, then, if any elite institutions have been created by conservative republicans? if not, why? if so, do they have admissions policies the same as harvard and other “elite” institutions which you appear to show such envy?

  19. baffling

    if academic admissions were based solely on the academic quality numbers, as it appears rick stryker is advocating, does that not benefit the privileged and leave behind those without the silver spoon? most students do not have the luxury of attending “groten” or any other private school, where they obtain superior preparation. their success is dictated by the resources available in their local community-many of which have very few resources. if a university does not make special attempts to include some of those disadvantaged students, who cannot compete head to head with a good student from a privileged background at the time of admission, then the university will perpetuate the process of privilege begets privilege. now many schools have an informal legacy policy, and this does perpetuate some of this process. but they also have intentionally diversified the admitted population in order to counter the privilege begets privilege situation. and this does mean some students of high caliber will not be admitted. rick seems to argue the admission policies are intentionally raising the bar on the asian students. i would disagree. but given there are absolute limits on the number of students which can be admitted, and the decision has been made to include a spectrum of diversity into the student population, somebody of high quality necessarily will be left out. rick, who would you choose to drop? i would agree at first with dropping the less compelling legacy student. but the reality is that legacy student is also paying full tuition, and revenue is required to keep an institution operating. or should the faculty simply work for free?

  20. Benamery21

    Bruce: Armenians are literally Caucasian, as you know. Is there a problem with a racial category that lumps folks from Kiribati, Kazakhstan, Korea, and Kerala? Sure. Race is largely a construct, however, and U.S. society generally uses this construct of Asian for some purposes.

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