PASADENA (CBSLA.com) — Yale University law professors and spouses Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld are generating a lot of buzz for writing a book that pinpoints traits they feel make certain ethnic groups more successful than others.
It’s also sparking a great deal of backlash.
“People are afraid to touch this question…culture. You know, they’re like, ‘If you go there, you’re going to be stereotyping,'” Chua said.
CBS2 reporter Serene Branson sat down with the co-authors of “The Triple Package,” which outlines three traits they say explain the rise and fall of cultural groups in the U.S.
They say the most “successful” ethnic groups usually possess a sense of superiority (or feeling special), an inferiority complex (or a sense to prove oneself), along with impulse control (or delayed gratification).
They authors are quick to point out that the book is not a celebration of the three traits but say it can be useful when incorporated into an approach of balanced success.
“In combination, they generate drive and act as a sort of rocket fuel for high achievement,” Chua said.
“I noticed there were three Mormons in it, then we started noticing other groups, more Asian Americans and maybe more Cuban Americans,” said Rubenfeld, who said he started noticing patterns on the Yale campus.
After years of research and studies, the couple say they noticed the same trends nationwide so they focused on eight ethnic groups that showed measurable signs of upward mobility.
“What do Nigerian Americans have in common with Mormons or Jews — it turns out that when groups are on the rise, they all tend to impose much more strict discipline on their children at an early age,” Chua said.
But the authors argue success is not permanent.
“Third-generation Asian-Americans, their academic performance, those kids, no different than the rest of the country. Now that proves it’s not innate. It’s not racial, it’s not biological,” said Rubenfeld, using the point to counter accusations that the book is filled with stereotypes.
“What do you say to allegations that this book, and that you for that matter, are racist?” Branson said.
“I find it incomprehensible,” Chua said. “I mean, our book shows exactly the opposite.”
Controversy is nothing new for Chua, who was thrust into the headlines after publishing her first book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom,” about race and raising kids in America.
“We show that there are African-American groups and Hispanic-American groups outperforming the national average, outperforming the white average,” Rubenfeld said.
UC Irvine Sociology Prof. Jennifer Lee had one of her studies referenced in the book. She feels the book is anecdotal, rather than scientific, and doesn’t account for certain advantages, such as wealth and refugee status.
“It’s certainly not social science,” Lee said. “The traits in themselves don’t explain group success. They’re taking traits out of context.”
The authors say the book is, ultimately, about opening up a discussion on a taboo topic.
“If certain behaviors, just behaviors, can lead to better academic achievement or career choices then why not look at that?” Chua said.