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The Model Minority Thesis and Workplace Discrimination of Asian Americans

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 January 2015

Lei Lai*
Tulane University
E-mail:, Address: A.B. Freeman School of Business, Tulane University, 7 McAlister Drive, GWI 607, New Orleans, LA 70118


In the focal article, Ruggs et al. (2013) observed that there is a dearth of racial discrimination research beyond the traditional White–Black or White–nonWhite comparisons in the industrial–organizational (I–O) literature and urged researchers to treat each minority race separately because individuals may have unique experiences with discrimination based on different racial stereotypes associated with their race/ethnicity. I agree with the above assessments. Moreover, I argue that the overlook of negative consequences of positive stereotypes of some marginalized groups, such as Asian Americans, is another “missed opportunity” that has not been addressed in the focal article. Specifically, the traditional paradigm, which tends to exclusively focus on how negative stereotypes of a marginalized group (e.g., Blacks, individuals with disabilities) lead to workplace discriminations against them, may be too narrowly focused. In this commentary, I use Asian Americans as an example to illustrate how seemingly positive stereotypes, the model minority thesis, may also lead to workplace discrimination of Asian Americans, an often overlooked minority group in the discrimination literature.

Copyright © Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology 2013 

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