Friday, February 7, 2014

How Do Hasidic Jews on Welfare Complicate Amy Chua's Arguments About 'The Triple Package' and Why Some Ethnic Groups Succeed or Fail in America?

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.

Your thoughts?


Myshkin the Idiot said...

She states that missing any one of the three can be extremely detrimental to an individuals drive to succeed, even having too much of any or all of the three can limit success. So for the Hasidic Jews the news story pointed out (by the way, Jewish poverty is only startling if you group people by stereotypes) they are too ascetic, studying the Talmud and forgoing zeal for wealth. Some conservatives would also point out that the culture of welfare is hereditary (if your parents were on it, you're more likely to be on it) as well as generates its own cycle of dependency.

Its amazing in a culture which promotes individualism, the willingness to engage in such generalizations about people outside of your group to me is just absurd. Every individual has their own experience, you can't just simply say this group has grown into lazy dependence. Show me some thing that really talks about what poverty means.

You know, conservatives accept the social hierarchy, they say for those at the bottom it makes them work harder to not be poor. Unemployment exists for a reason, it will always exist unless we radically alter how to become employed. Chua explains that, "sure those at the top pass on their wealth, but if they don't strive themselves they will lose it eventually" here you see the American aristocracy. And they don't want to expand those same opportunities of tutoring programs, music and arts programs, preschool programs, no, the poor have to work for their free lunch, they don't have time to play.

kokanee said...

re: "Chua and her co-author Jed Rubenfeld"
and husband.

The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. —Chua/Rubenfeld

Wow, what a grotesquely racist thing to say. It's easy enough to rewrite their thesis without the overt racism:
1) Self-confidence
2) Fear motivation
3) Self-discipline

It must be nice to get away with writing a book about one's pet theory without any scientific studies to back it up. I haven't read the book and nor will I but I'd bet
a dollar that the authors make a bid deal about the marshmallow study on impulse control with kids in the 1960s/70s. See:

Not only that, her claim is wrong and dangerous. For example:
Asians and Jews occupy the upper echelons of societies and therefore Asians and Jews must be vilified.
One can see where that line of thinking goes. (Not a good place.)

Group success in America often tends to dissipate after two generations. Thus while Asian-American kids overall had SAT scores 143 points above average in 2012 — including a 63-point edge over whites — a 2005 study of over 20,000 adolescents found that third-generation Asian-American students performed no better academically than white students. —Chua/Rubenfeld

That strikes me as true. Success is partly cultural. However, the most significant factor that determines how well a child will do in life is the income of the parents.

I'm married to an self-described tiger mom (Bengali tiger) and I myself grew up with a very authoritarian mother. I'm conflicted on that. I like to bring up my kids with self-confidence and happiness. My wife is the harsh disciplinarian. I think that achieving great wealth doesn't achieve great happiness. Of course, having economic insecurity is not a good thing either. On the other hand, my kids lack the self-discipline I had as a child where I strived to do well in school without prodding. I'll let you know in 20 years how they turn out.

Bopgunner1701 said...

I sort of agree with Chua, but in a very limited way. I think those attributes are important to help individuals succeed and that some groups tend to promote those attributes more so than others, but there are a lot of other things people need to succeed. Namely support from family and friends. I was able to be successful because of a lot of types of support. I wouldn't have been able to afford to go to college without grants and scholarships in addition to my social support networks and personal moxie. Without the former two aspects, I could have had all the drive in the world and still would not have been very successful. Also, I needed some luck. Had Chua framed it in terms of personal attributes and various supports, I would have accepted it more.

Miles_Ellison said...

How does the destruction of economically thriving ethnic enclaves through state supported racist terrorism fit in with the triple package?

chauncey devega said...

Are you reading my mind. Stop that w. all of your history of how the State played a huge role in over-determining group success!

chauncey devega said...

Smart thinking there. Like many ideologies conservatism is full of contradictions. The problem is that movement populist conservatism at present is not at all self-reflective about its contradictions because of the echo chamber effect, and a concerted disinformation campaign targeted on its followers.

Miles_Ellison said...

Big Government is good as long as it helps the "right" people.

Myshkin the Idiot said...


Yastreblyansky said...

A similar argument can (and should) be made about the Chinese community in the US, which has more than its share of welfare clients, gang members, gambling and prostitution, and all kinds of lowlife. Chua herself has no clue about the existence of any of these people: she's an American-born child of Filipino Chinese (Chinese in the Philippines are like Jews in New York, well off and educated, landlords and Communists and the subject of vast conspiracy theories) and has probably never met anybody from mainland China (other than her mother) who wasn't an academic. Come to think of it her husband has probably never been in close proximity with any haredim either. That's kind of interesting, isn't it?

TB said...

What do you think about Chua's argument? Are these cultures more successful than others because they posess these traits or are there other factors at work that may help explain their success?