Diversity and Inclusion in Law School and Higher Education

Diversity Within Diversity: The Varied Experiences of Asian and Asian American Law Students

Document Type

Issue/Research Brief/Blog

Publication Date



student demographics, law school diversity, race and ethnicity


Asians and Asian Americans are often forgotten in conversations about diversity. The “model minority” stereotype – the idea that people of Asian descent are successful because of their cultural emphasis on achievement, discipline, and conformity – pervades the limited discourse, ignoring the vast diversity among Asian and Asian American communities. Scholars such as Frank Wu, Robert Teranishi, and Vijay Prashad have broadly critiqued this monolithic approach, but there are still large gaps in the research. Virtually no research has focused on law students of Asian descent. This report begins to fill these gaps. By finely disaggregating its racial and ethnic data, LSSSE takes on a daunting challenge. Racial classifications as a whole are ambiguous and imprecise. For people of Asian descent, these dilemmas are compounded by issues of nationality, diversity, and identity. Many people emphasize their own national origins (e.g., Chinese American). Some have more complex regional identities: for example, students from the Indian subcontinent often identify themselves as “South Asian” to distinguish themselves from East Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Korean), Southeast Asians (Vietnamese, Laotian), and Filipinos. Others prefer terms like “Asian Pacific American” or “Asian Pacific Islander” and adopt a Pan-Asian identity, focusing on their common experiences. There are lots of debates about identity and terminology here, highlighting the need for, and the difficulty of, taking a granular approach to racial and ethnic trends.