The Adverse Effects of Racial Discrimination on Asian American Kids

Posted August 23, 2023
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A mother and son sit on park bench. Their backs to the camera, they look into the distance on a warm day. The mother holds the son close with her arm around him.

The recent spike in racist sen­ti­ments and anti-Asian hate crimes has had a sig­nif­i­cant effect on Asian Amer­i­can (AA) and Native Hawai­ian and Pacif­ic Islander (NHPI) young peo­ple, as described in 2021 study in the jour­nal Child Devel­op­ment. This study notes that fre­quent race-relat­ed expe­ri­ences lead to neg­a­tive effects on the men­tal health of AA and NHPI youth.

Even pri­or to this recent rise in overt racism, these youth were report­ing the high­est rates of harass­ment from peers. AA and NHPI youth also face harm­ful stereo­types in Amer­i­can cul­ture, such as the per­pet­u­al for­eign­er” and the mod­el minor­i­ty.” Over­all, a grow­ing body of research has doc­u­ment­ed the adverse effect of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion on youth devel­op­ment and emo­tion­al health, not just for the nation’s AA and NHPI youth, but young peo­ple of col­or more broadly.

Asian Amer­i­can & Native Hawai­ian and Pacif­ic Islander Dis­crim­i­na­tion Today

Take a look at recent find­ings on dis­crim­i­na­tion toward AA and NHPI groups:

  • A 2022 report by the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress found that 2 in 5 AA and NHPI youth who also iden­ti­fy as LGBTQ have expe­ri­enced harass­ment or assault at school due to their sex­u­al iden­ti­ty and race. These stu­dents are also more like­ly to expe­ri­ence depres­sion and skip school due to feel­ing unsafe com­pared to stu­dents who did not expe­ri­ence this bullying.
  • In Cal­i­for­nia, home to the largest num­ber of AA chil­dren and youth in the coun­try, AA stu­dents are more like­ly to expe­ri­ence race-based bul­ly­ing at school than stu­dents of oth­er races or eth­nic­i­ties, accord­ing to the lat­est data from the Cal­i­for­nia Healthy Kids Sur­vey (20172019).
  • A 2022 Pew Research Cen­ter sur­vey found that near­ly two-thirds (63%) of AA adults say vio­lence against Asian Amer­i­cans is ris­ing in the Unit­ed States. Fur­ther, the vast major­i­ty of AA adults say they wor­ry about race-based threats or attacks, and more than 1 in 3 (36%) report chang­ing their dai­ly rou­tine due to these concerns.

How Can Lead­ers Address Discrimination?

Lead­ers can do more to address these racist acts and hate crimes, from strength­en­ing and ful­ly enforc­ing exist­ing harass­ment, cyber­bul­ly­ing and hate-crime laws to pro­mot­ing pub­lic edu­ca­tion efforts and ensur­ing ade­quate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of AAs and NHPIs in lead­er­ship roles.

Learn About a Frame­work that Helps Com­mu­ni­ty Schools Ele­vate Stu­dent Voic­es to Advance Equity

It is also crit­i­cal to sup­port schools in address­ing bul­ly­ing and assault. For exam­ple, schools can ensure that they have:

  • strong anti-harass­ment poli­cies that are part of school­wide sys­tems to address stu­dent needs and pro­vide safe, sup­port­ive environments;
  • high-qual­i­ty train­ing for all school staff on how to pre­vent and address bul­ly­ing inci­dents and how to iden­ti­fy and respond to stu­dent men­tal health issues;
  • social-emo­tion­al learn­ing pro­grams for stu­dents and oppor­tu­ni­ties for pos­i­tive youth devel­op­ment and con­nec­tions with sup­port­ive adults, such as men­tor­ing and com­mu­ni­ty pro­grams; and
  • effec­tive school-based ser­vices and the abil­i­ty to con­nect stu­dents and fam­i­lies to com­mu­ni­ty-based ser­vices for men­tal and behav­ioral health, med­ical care and oth­er needs.

A Note About Language

We use the term Asian Amer­i­cans” in this post to refer to both Asian immi­grants and U.S. cit­i­zens of Asian descent, as the term reflects the vast major­i­ty of this pop­u­la­tion, espe­cial­ly among children.

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