Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Nancy Foner

Committee Members

Richard Alba

Van Tran

Philip Kasinitz

Subject Categories

Educational Sociology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Migration Studies | Race and Ethnicity


second-generation, mobility, hyper-selectivity, Filipino


Scholars Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou (2015) argue that the upward mobility of one racial group --- Asian Americans --- in the U.S. can be explained by its “hyper-selectivity”: the Immigration Act of 1965 brought in Asian migrants who are more highly educated than their compatriots back home and the average American. These middle-class immigrants bring with them a success frame based on exceptional achievement and generate ethnic capital (i.e. resources and information available in the community) that ultimately benefits all members of an ethnic group, including the second-generation. In addition, the educational leaps of the second-generation have altered racial stereotypes such that Asians have become associated with achievement and identified as “model minorities,” which have subsequently boosted their school performance.

However, the case of second-generation Filipinos --- the third largest Asian ethnic group in the U.S. --- challenges hyper-selectivity theory. While all other large hyper-selected Asian populations accomplish either upward mobility or attain very high levels of college graduation in the second-generation, Filipino Americans experience intergenerational stagnation. In addition, Filipinos are the least likely among hyper-selected second-generation Asian groups to hold a B.A. degree.

This dissertation seeks to understand why hyper-selectivity theory cannot account for second-generation Filipinos’ lower than expected educational outcomes. It draws from multiple data sources: the American Community Survey (2012-2016), the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, and a five-year ethnographic project on high school aged second-generation Filipino youth --- as well as their parents and communities --- from the New York City metropolitan area.

This study identified four important distinctions between Filipinos and other hyper-selected Asian American groups. First, Filipino hyper-selectivity is uniquely female-driven; Filipino immigrant women’s educational levels and occupational status are less than those of immigrant men from other hyper-selected Asian groups. Second, Filipino immigrants’ labor market incorporation into ethnic niches --- i.e. nursing and the military --- has generated ethnic capital that encourages and supports educational and occupational stagnation in the second-generation. Third, Filipino immigrants’ specific homeland context, shaped by Catholicism and the Philippine government’s labor export policies, have shaped Filipino American values such that family goals supersede those of the individual. Last, Filipinos’ non-model minority stereotypes and non-Asian racialization in high school position them as underachieving Asians. Understanding that peers view Filipinos as inferior Asians lowers the second-generation’s academic confidence and occupational aspirations.

This dissertation study reveals key elements missing from Lee and Zhou’s hyper-selectivity perspective. Post-B.A. attainment, gender, and occupation are key factors that impact immigrant hyper-selectivity. Also, Asian populations differ in homeland context and labor market incorporation, which lead to variation in ethnic capital and views on success among groups. In addition, the model minority stereotype is one way Asian youth are racialized; Asians are not phenotypically homogenous and, consequently, nor are their racial experiences. Findings from this study show the limitations of utilizing a racial lens to study mobility among Asian American ethnic groups and highlight the importance of examining ethnic differences among Asians in the U.S.