Asian American Disadvantage Across Generations: Comparing Educational Debt of Asian Americans and Non-Hispanic Whites

Kennan Cepa , University of Pennsylvania
Grace Kao, Yale University

In the United States, Asians are stereotyped as a “model minority” because of their high educational attainment and labor market outcomes relative to other racial groups. At the postsecondary level, Asian students are more likely to attend prestigious colleges and to complete college or graduate school, which are often expensive and may require Asian students to rely on educational loans or borrow more debt. This paper investigates Asian youths’ experiences with debt and considers economic consequences, showing that low-SES Asians are less likely to borrow, but borrow more than similar whites. This is associated with Asian youths’ higher likelihood of enrolling in selective colleges and graduate schools relative to low-SES whites. However, these institutions do not appear to provide the same income advantage to Asian youth as they do for whites, which has implications for social mobility and the accumulation of wealth across race and ethnic groups.

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 Presented in Session 166. Race, Wealth, and Debt