Educational Attainment

Educational attainment is a term commonly used by statisticians to refer to the highest degree of education an individual has completed. It is defined by the US Census Bureau Glossary as “the highest level of education completed in terms of the highest degree or the highest level of schooling completed.” In the Laotian American community, however, educational attainment is much more difficult compared to other Asian Americans.


“Among Asian Americans, Southeast Asians, especially Cambodians and Laotians, perform the lowest on standardized tests,” shared Phoumy Sayavong, PhD, in his presentation on the current status of Education Attainment of Laotians on May 6, 2007 at the Second International Center for Lao Studies Conference.

Dr. Sayavong explored the model minority myth, highlighting some popular misconceptions about Asian Americans before dispelling them:

  • Asian Americans are doing well in society and that we’ve overcome past instances of prejudice and discrimination without resorting to political or violent confrontations with Whites.
  • Asian Americans are still the targets of much prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination. For instance, the persistent belief that “all Asians are smart” puts a tremendous amount of pressure on many Asian Americans.
  • Many, particularly Southeast Asians, are not able to conform to this unrealistic expectation and in fact, have the highest high school dropout rates in the country.
  • Since Asian Americans are doing so well, we no longer experience any discrimination and that Asian Americans no longer need public services such as bilingual education, government documents in multiple languages, and welfare.
  • All Asian Americans are successful and that none of us are struggling.

He was joined by Khammany Mathavongsa, MPA and Saengmany Ratsabout, MA to further discuss barriers to educational attainment. They concluded their presentation by offering recommendations based on their research:

  • Request disaggregated race categories or include home language option
  • Adjust Asian scholarships (e.g. GMS, APISF) outreach and criteria to prioritize highest need groups in order to increase the number of Laotian Americans applicants and recipients.
  • More scholars to revisit the social, educational, economic and mental health status of Laotian Americans since the large migration between 1975-1985.

LANA requests that when this information is shared, please acknowledge Dr. Sayavong, Mr. Mathavongsa and Mr. Ratsabout.Here is a new report just released by the Public Policy Institute of California
on the Higher Education and Future Workforce in California.

Behind the Curve: Across the Nation

The 2000 Census revealed that Laotians are falling behind the curve in educational attainment. In “A Community of Contrasts” and “The Diverse Faces of Asian Pacific Islander in California”, a comparison is made between Laotian (Lao) with other AAPI groups; Hmong is in a separate category. You can download both PDFs copy by clicking on the provided link.

The Public Policy Institute of California on the Higher Education and Future Workforce in California recently issued a new report on how Laotian Americans in California are failing in the educational attainment front.

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