Prompted by “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” the fiercely debated book by El Cerrito High grad Amy Chua, a UC San Diego professor found that students of Asian ancestry study more than twice as many hours as other students.

The national firestorm that El Cerrito High School alum Amy Chua set off in January with her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, prompted a UC San Diego economist to examine whether the strict Chinese parenting approach in Chua’s volume coincides with the real world.

Professor of economics Valerie Ramey found that there’s some truth in the stereotype portrayed in Chua’s book. Ramey’s research showed that Asian-American high school students spend far more time studying than peers from other ethnic groups, UC San Diego announced earlier this month.

The data shows that on average for a whole year, including summer vacations, non-Hispanic white students spend 5.5 hours per week studying and doing homework, and that Hispanic and non-Hispanic black students spend even less. At the same time, Ramey found, Asian students study 13 hours a week on average.

Ramey said the controversy that raged over Chua’s book was caused in part by the stereotype of Asian academic success, according to UC San Diego’s news release about Ramey’s research.

“And statistics back up that stereotype,” the news release said. Four of the world’s five top-scoring countries on academic tests are in Asia, and in California, Asians account for a third of UC admissions but only 12 percent of high school graduates, the campus release said.

Academic success matters, according to Ramey, because it leads to financial rewards. Doing well in high school affects college admissions, and a college degree significantly boosts income. “The latest U.S. Census figures show that Asians as a group are much more likely to have college degrees and also have much higher household incomes,” according to the UC San Diego report.

At the same time, however, Ramey found that other components of the Chinese parenting portrait painted by Chua — such as the exacting regimen of hours a day of music practice under a watchful mother and bans on TV, computer games and playdates — do not match up with today’s Asian-American lifestyles.

Asian-American students on average don’t spend more time on music, and they watch TV about the same amount of time as other students. They spend more time on the computer, but they do spend less time socializing and doing sports, compared to other ethnic groups, Ramey found.

Chua, who graduated from El Cerrito High in 1980 and is a Yale law professor, has said parts of her description were exaggerated for humorous effect.

A major difference, Ramey found, was the time devoted to a part-time job. Asians worked 2.4 hours per week on average, compared to white students, whose average was 5.8 hours.

Ramey also looked at whether Asian mothers spent more time with their children. She found Asian mothers, compared to white mothers, spend slightly more time — just half an hour a week — on reading to children, helping with homework and other educational activities. The difference was larger when compared to Hispanic and black mothers.

It is clear from the data that Asian teenagers and college students spend more time studying than their counterparts in any other ethnic group,” Ramey was quoted as saying. “This is consistent with the claims made by Chua. But whether it’s the case that Asian-style parenting is the cause of the difference remains for further research to ferret out.”

She plans to extend her research in the next few months, UC San Diego said.

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