Tang & Kao—Ethnicity, Gender, and the Education of Cambodian American Students 2
Journal of Southeast Asian American Education & Advancement, Vol. 7 (2012)
2010, more than 276,000 Cambodians (alone or in combination with another race) were residing
in the U.S., with 37% of all Cambodians living in California, 10% in Massachusetts, and 8% in
the state of Washington (United States Census Bureau, 2010).
While Asian Americans are commonly perceived to be highly educated, Cambodian
Americans continue to face considerable educational challenges. Based on the 2000 Census, over
half of the Cambodian Americans living in California (56%) had less than a high school
education, while only nine percent had earned a college degree. These disturbing patterns among
Cambodian Americans contradict the notion of all Asian Americans being a “model minority,”
who have collectively adapted or integrated well into the U.S. society (Chou & Feagin, 2008;
Kao, 1995; Ng, Lee, & Pak, 2007; Ngo & Lee, 2007; Reyes, 2007; K. Yang, 2004).
Unfortunately, the success story of high educational attainment—although it certainly applies to
many individuals—has also led to stereotypes and overgeneralizations, where the relative
success of some ethnic subgroups tends to overshadow the hardships and challenges faced by
other ethnic subgroups (Kao, 1995; Olsen, 1997; P. Q. Yang, 2004).
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