25% of 2011 Intel Science Talent Search finalists Indian American

talentfig.jpgChildren of Immigrants Are America’s Science Superstars:

The study, conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy, found that 70 percent of the finalists in the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search competition — also known as the “Junior Nobel Prize” — were the children of immigrants even though only 12 percent of the U.S. population is foreign-born.

A think tank called the National Foundation for Economic Policy has released a report (PDF), The impact of the children of immigrants on scientific achievement in America. These aren’t just any “immigrants.” Ethnically 10 out of the 40 finalists are Indian American, and 16 are Chinese American, but perhaps more critically: “While former H-1B visa holders comprise less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, 60 percent of the finalists had parents who entered the U.S. on H-1B visas, which are generally the only practical way to hire skilled foreign nationals.”

25 thoughts on “25% of 2011 Intel Science Talent Search finalists Indian American

  1. It seems that at this rate most of the groundbreaking science and technology research and breakthroughs will be carried out by the children of immigrants. What percentage of the finalists are Russian or Korean? I’m surprised by the fact that Korean Americans are as a group nearly as big as the Chinese and Indian American communities despite South Korea being so much smaller in population. Is this because of the ties Korea has with the US because of the Korean War? I suppose that would be akin to the fact that Filipino Americans are also well represented in America because of ties to the US via colonization.

    • I forgot to add but it seems rather interesting that Russia performs very well at the International Math Olympiad beating out the US this year and taking 2nd place despite its much smaller and poorer population. I wonder if some of these countries are better adept at utilizing their most promising citizens to their fullest potential while the US does a poor job of this.

      • Why should the “most promising citizens” be in the math olympiad? You have a weird preconception. How about if instead they are doing value-added stuff?

  2. s this because of the ties Korea has with the US because of the Korean War? I suppose that would be akin to the fact that Filipino Americans are also well represented in America because of ties to the US via colonization.

    a lot of the migration stream is a positive feedback loop due to family reunification. what i’ve heard is that an original crop of korean and filipino women married american soldiers. they obtained citizenship, and then sponsored their siblings. these siblings had spouses, who then sponsored their siblings, and so forth.

    I wonder if some of these countries are better adept at utilizing their most promising citizens to their fullest potential while the US does a poor job of this.

    different nations emphasize the math olympiad to different degrees. romania for example has always emphasized it, and does really well. i think this generalized to the eastern bloc as a whole.

  3. There’s is a lot of dark mumbling going on about the science/math talent competitions. About post-doc parents doing the work for their children f’instance. I have considerable warrant to take this seriously. Consider the following contestants in a school science fair

    A is the child of Asian post-docs from the local university, and completes some deep work on a group of ion channels, and makes it to a hot shot national competition B is the Euro-American child of a professor of chemistry from the same university, and using some simple home made equipment and borrowed measuring instruments, characterises the static charges of some 10 different materials (Professor is an expert in low temp nano work but spends little more than a few hours with child). B receives an honorable mention

  4. Are you sure this mumbling isn’t just due to sour grapes, jyotsana? If child B’s parent didn’t invest more time in helping child B learn then why would you blame child A or his/her parents?

  5. Gotta say this Razib. Since you started blogging here, this blog (which was already quite good) has become an absolute delight to read! Some very interesting statistical stuff here!

  6. Unfortunately the average non-immigrant American knows and cares little about science talent competitions – or science and technology in general.

    These are seen as “implementation details” that will take care of themselves, whether done by Asians in Asia, or Asians here, while white Americans rake in the big bucks in finance and law, and control the power in boardrooms and in politics.

  7. while white Americans rake in the big bucks in finance and law,

    indian americans have higher per capita incomes than white americans (fwiw).

    • indian americans have higher per capita incomes than white americans (fwiw).

      True, however, you are comparing highly educated Indian Americans to the white population at large many of whom who have nothing more than a diploma. The real question is if given an equivalent level of education who generally comes out on top. The answer is pretty clear.

  8. It’s part sour grapes for sure. But this also stems from a different outlook in the affluent societies of the West, regading what science is all about. Razib, I am sure you would know this being in correspondence with a number of science geeks in the scienceblogs collective. Science is first of all about developing an attitude an then certain skills, the patience the persistence to enquire, and follow up any and every lead, build hypotheses all the time. But in East Asia (I won’t take names) “science” just like music or danc, is about proving how capable you are compared to the whites and how you truly represent the Middle Kingdom. In the latter culture, investigating a problem and finding no clue or a dead end, is considered failure, not in the affluent West, where finding out something doesn’t work, even, is considered a job well done. As Jerry Coyne says, wrt evolutionary biology, most of its practical applications have been understood and practiced for centuries. But knowing how evolution ticks along is a deep mystery, and its merit is entirely scientific. Science in the affluent cultures isn’t about proving your cultural superiority. It is about maintaining a culture of science. To an extent I am happy that browns aren’t going whole hog for science competitions, and rather pursuing a career in science. I remember an E.Asian family surprising me when I asked them why they spend so much time churning out piano and violin automatons, and so few (if any) guitarists. “It is not a disciplined activity, Sx, DRGS, R n’ roll, etc.”

    I am glad browns are going for power and honing their political skills. We believe politics is a legitimate way to run a society. E. Asians don’t, not yet.

  9. You bring up some good points, jyotsana. However. how do you know that Asians aren’t also interested in a culture of science? You’re painting them with a broad brush. Obviously in events like these there is an element of competition but Westerners are just as intent on it. It’s not like the research these kids have done is useless or not adding to our depth of knowledge and understanding(any less than what actual researchers are doing) or they wouldn’t have placed so well in the competition. Regarding piano and violin vis a vis guitars and drums, these parents are trying to ensure the success of their children by constructing their environment so they aren’t influenced by the likes of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Can you really blame them? The average electric guitarist or drummer is aimless and focused on the present and partying hard.

    • i am not too comfortable with the “broad brush” painting either. all that being said, jyotsana points to an unfortunate dynamic as to why east asian societies (i’m thinking japan here really, it’s been rich for two generations now) tend to under-perform on basic fundamental innovation. part of it in japan has to do with deference to seniority. the groundbreaking evolutionary geneticist motoo kimura came to the USA to establish his career in part because he knew that as a young scientist he simply wouldn’t be allowed to challenge the orthodoxies of his superiors in the japanese system. once he attained a level of status and success he went back to japan. but it could be argued that then fell back into conventional japanese attitudes about how scientists should comport themselves, especially in regards to those who are more eminent.

      True, however, you are comparing highly educated Indian Americans to the white population at large many of whom who have nothing more than a diploma. The real question is if given an equivalent level of education who generally comes out on top. The answer is pretty clear.

      i haven’t looked at the social science. you need to control for the fact that many immigrants and to a lesser extent their children are kind of socially non-fluent. i mean, you can make good money if you are an insurance salesmen with a high school diploma, but you need social capital and fluency. that takes generations to build up. i will look into the japanese american community, as they’ve been around a while.

  10. p.s., there has long been a complaint that there aren’t many “science bloggers of color” around. this is especially weird with asian americans because there are certainly many asian americans in science. my standard explanation is that it’s supply-side: you can’t usually put it on your C.V., or it isn’t seen as serious. that hasn’t been my personal experience, as i’ve monetized my blogging and am moderately well known among scientists in the fields of my interest, but i never started out with that intent, and if you do it probably won’t work out unless you have the right combination of skills. my personal experience with asian american science bloggers is that we’re more “oddballs,” not the type who grind away studying for the MCAT, or even disdaining the excessive professional focus which we find amongst our peers.

  11. Regarding piano and violin vis a vis guitars and drums, these parents are trying to ensure the success of their children by constructing their environment so they aren’t influenced by the likes of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Can you really blame them? The average electric guitarist or drummer is aimless and focused on the present and partying hard.

    It’s interesting you pointed this out, because the stereotype of the Harvard-bound Asian kid, complete with violin, piano, 4.0 and off the charts SAT scores has become such a cliche, that those types now find it harder to get admittance to top universities like Stanford and Ivies. OTOH, the Asian kid who also has great grades/SAT, but plays electric guitar and is captain of the lacrosse team often stands out more from the hardcore violinists fiddlin’ away.

    I also think that since Asian cultures are less individualist and more collectivist than Western cultures, that maybe Asian parents feel more pressure to sculpt their kids in a certain fashion, not so much for the sake of competing with their White neighbors, but more importantly so Junior can be a model of perfection in the Asian community.

    (and all this is common mostly with 1st/2nd gens. I notice that after 3rd gen or so, there seems to be a dramatic difference in culture for whatever reason).

    • Well the fact that the Asian kid who plays the electric guitar and is the captain of the lacrosse team has a better chance of admission to the Ivies due to his standing out in comparison to other Asians is because admissions to colleges is now a game where candidates with unique non-academic credentials are given preference over stereotypically academic students. If enough Asians started playing the electric guitar or becoming the captain of the lacrosse team admissions to these types of students would decline. The system is put in place to limit the number of Asian students because otherwise Universities would be even more disproportionately Asian.

      I for one do think that the violin/piano and classical music in general IS of higher aesthetics to what the average electric guitarist puts out. Wouldn’t you also agree that Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music are vastly superior to Bhangra and Hindi folk music? Is there even a contest?

  12. or it isn’t seen as serious

    But I think this is mostly true, after all, how many prominent/renowned scientists blog? Probably the most prominent “science” blogger, PZ Myers is an assistant professor at a very small University of Minnesota satellite. If you ascribe to the model minority stereotype, then the dearth of bloggers of diversity follows, they’re too busy doing real science to blog about it.

  13. how many prominent/renowned scientists blog?

    lots of graduate students blog. PIs, not so much. though that is partly an artifact of age/generation. also, PIs seem to often blog anonymously from what i’ve seen. even tenured ones. i think some of it is that they’re “public people” and don’t want their political rants googlable.

  14. I for one do think that the violin/piano and classical music in general IS of higher aesthetics to what the average electric guitarist puts out. Wouldn’t you also agree that Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music are vastly superior to Bhangra and Hindi folk music? Is there even a contest?

    Thanks for asking me Malik. No I don’t think so. I reject the high folks’ classification of Indian art forms into “classical” “folk” and “popular” categories. I don’t either buy that other whine about elite expropriated forms vs. the subaltern/oppressed peoples’ forms either. I also have a problem with dhol/bhangra being passed off for “Punjabi” music/dance. There is a far more to it. I do have my likes and dislikes, but today I have concluded that if I don’t like some artistic form it is 8/10 because I don’t care to learn about it. I do have a problem with S&D intruding into R n’ R. But then there are all sorts of rockers, types like Alice Cooper (a born again so a strict TT), Chris Martin (a no beer and vegan) and of course my favourite – Ilayaraja whom AR Rahman credits with helping him find his way, “How could this man lead such a pure life, and produce such awesome music, how could he so cleanly break with the stereotype of the debauched musician?” And then again art is grunge and without its tamasic bohemianism would be insipid. The problem with the “E.Asian revolutions” is that they were not radical at the core and were in larger parts driven by reactionary and ossified traditionalist sentiment.

  15. If there were a “like” button, I would have liked your last message, Jyotsana.

  16. “Ethnically 10 out of the 40 finalists are Indian American, and 16 are Chinese American”

    not sure if you’re just repeating their terms here, but as a point of fact, these lines are drawn along national boundaries/origins, not ethnic ones.

  17. Aaron, Re Myers. Scientists see their role more broadly than some of in the non-scientific community do. While markers of prestige always sway even the opinions of those who should know better, there are other factors considered equally if not more important. Myers may be an Assoc. (not Asst.) Prof. teaching at a small satellite of the U.Mn. system. But the science community knows him for his work on evo-devo particularly with respect to his studies on the pharyngula stage. He is highly regarded for mentoring biology students who have gone on to higher studies in the field. His ability to train students in the art and craft of doing science is admired. He does not often blog about his work, it is technically deep. Which is why we know him better for his tireless advocacy of reason and evidence. Larry Moran a prof of biochemistry at U.Toronto is another popular blogger. Larry in some similar ways does a great job of teaching students to think and do science. Take the case of Venki Ramakrishnan who became widely known only after the Nobel. But among the science community he has been famous for several years. With an H-Index of 45, and 7, 8, 11 papers in Cell, Nature, Science resply, he was very well known even before the Nobel.

    Thanks, lifelong, we are now BF lifelong!

  18. but as a point of fact, these lines are drawn along national boundaries/origins, not ethnic ones.

    in the USA these are de facto ethnic terms.* who has heard the term “han american”? :-) i have made the case that the modal identity among indian americans raised in the USA is a novel synthesis which doesn’t map easily onto ethnic boundaries within india, so even if it doesn’t exist in practice today (indian americans are mostly immigrants born abroad), it will in the future. this is evident in the dominance of punjabi-hindi terms even on the message boards here, which are alien to many of us whose families don’t come form that cultural complex, but who are expected to (and do, now) understand that lingo.

    • also, i’m not sure what your own perspective is, but i’m sure you’re aware that the broader ethnic terms in south asia and china are almost trivially problematized. because of china’s recent history and formal process by which sub-national identities are created and recognized it’s child’s-play to track the rise and fall of ethnonyms there (e.g., the disappearance and reappearance of manchus).