Amy Chua, the "Tiger Mother" who launched a thousand panic attacks among ambitious but lenient parents, is back with an almost-great book about why some groups achieve spectacular success in America while others languish. Written with her husband Jed Rubenfeld (both are law professors at Yale), "The Triple Package" examines a number of groups who've succeeded in this country and advances a thesis about why groups (and nations) prosper or decline.
The success of Asian-American immigrants (this principally includes people from China, Japan, Korea and India) is legendary. Less familiar is the bounding achievement of Nigerian immigrants. Though they account for only 0.7 percent of the black American population, they comprised 25 percent of the blacks at Harvard Business School last year. Nigerian immigrants are estimated to be 10 percent of America's black physicians. The average family income of Nigerian immigrants is not only above the black average, but above the national average as well.
While we think we know about Asian achievement (who hasn't seen the Asian students walk away with most of the honors at high school graduation ceremonies?), the statistics still have the power to startle. For the last five years, nearly 50 percent of the top prizewinners at the Intel Science Talent Search have been Asian Americans. They constitute "30 to 50 percent of the student bodies at the country's leading music programs." In 2012, of the 141 top-ranked high school students in the country, those designated as "presidential scholars," 48 were Asian-American. On the SAT, Asians score on average 143 points above the norm. Though only 5 percent of the college-age cohort, they represent 19 percent of the study body at Harvard, 16 percent at Yale, 19 percent at Princeton and, well, you get the idea. If there were not an unspoken quota on Asians imposed by universities, they would probably account for half of the students at the leading schools.
The high fliers academically and economically are not only immigrants. Mormons have recently been taking the top spots in the corporate and banking worlds. They have risen to the top at Dell, American Express, Sears, Roebuck, Fisher Price, Lufthansa, Black & Decker and many other companies. Goldman Sachs's third largest office is now in Salt Lake City.
Cubans, Jews, Lebanese, Iranians, blacks from the West Indies and others also excel. Chua and Rubenfeld think they know why. It's three traits that combine to drive achievement: 1) a sense of group superiority; 2) a feeling of insecurity and something to prove; and 3) a capacity for delaying gratification.