Here, I described Amy Chua's claim that a limited set of "cultural" traits determine an ethnic group's success in the United States as a vainglorious exercise. Ultimately, Chua is crowing about her own family's success--and what she sees as the positives of "Tiger Mom" parenting--as opposed to making a rigorous social scientific argument.
There are some smart folks chiming in on Amy Chua's new book "The Triple Package".
One of them, the New Yorker's Joshua Rotham, would seem to agree with my initial impression of Chua's thesis:
In any case, it may be that “The Triple Package,” like “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” isn’t really about its arguments. (Even if you’re convinced, what can you do—fake your own group-superiority complex?) The book feels expressive, rather than analytical. Chua and Rubenfeld are self-conscious tiger parents. They know that tiger parenting is extreme, and maybe unwise, and yet they have great respect for the successes of immigrant parents, and are obviously happy with how their own children have turned out. Their goal seems to be to express their ambivalence. By articulating the world view behind their parenting style, they hope to make it seem less strange, both to us and to themselves. If that’s the case, the book is actually quite American in its outlook. Its goal is self-understanding, also known as “feeling secure about yourself” and “embracing yourself as you are.”There appear to be a number of problems with Chua's argument. First and foremost: how generalizable is a limited data set about "the immigrant experience" for making claims about the social, economic, and inter-generational mobility, and values of many millions of people? Second, immigrants are by definition outliers both in their own countries of origin and the countries to which they relocate. The study of outliers can be instructive; they cannot be the whole story if one is to make sound macro-level claims about American society.
For many readers, Chua's arguments in "The Triple Package" will be compelling precisely because of how they oversimplify a complex puzzle. Intuitive talking points are great at the water cooler, as well as for the TV and book circuit. But, these arguments can be dangerous if they are used to influence serious conversations about important matters of public policy.
Chua and her co-author Jed Rubenfeld argue that three traits explain the comparative success of different ethnic/racial groups in the United States:
It turns out that for all their diversity, the strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.How would the New York City area's Hasidic Jewish community complicate Chua's thesis?
They would appear to rank high on all of Chua's indices for group success. However, Hasidic Jews in the New York area also have high rates of welfare use, live in one of the "poorest" communities in the United States, and are plagued by a serious problem with child sex abuse.