Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou are professors of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, respectively. Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative data, they set out to examine why Asian Americans are successful to the extent that they are. Their answer? Hyperselectivity. According to Lee and Zhou, Asians in America are "doubly positively selected; they are not only more highly educated than their compatriots from their countries of origin who did not immigrate, but also more highly educated than the U.S. average…". Lee and Zhou point out that two Asian subgroups in particular are hyperselected: Koreans and Chinese. However, they are careful to acknowledge that hyperselectivity does not mean all Korean and Chinese immigrants will fulfill the Model Minority Myth. In fact, the myth works as a double edged sword, helping those who embody it while hurting those who do not fit the stereotype of the overachieving Asian. The latter is the "achievement paradox" of the title; Asian Americans who do not fit the high expectations of Asians feel like failures.
Both the Q&A as well as the publisher's blurb emphasize that Lee and Zhou are motivated to show that Asian Americans have succeeded thanks to an interplay of history, institutions, and culture, rather than to any intrinsically superior traits. As they say in their Q&A, "There is a popular misconception that Asian Americans attain high levels of education and achieve success because they hold the 'right' cultural traits and values, but this argument is as misguided as attributing poverty among the poor to their 'wrong' traits and values."
Given the historical misappropriation of "culture" as a cause of success or (more notoriously) failure of specific ethnic groups, it is understandable why the authors would seek to diminish its role in forming a "model minority." However, it's also clear that there needs to be much nuance in the discussion of how individual traits and systemic forces interplay to produce outcomes -- good or bad. Lee and Zhou's book promises to be thought-provoking in this regard.