Hmong Families Spur Student Success

Published February 1, 1999

Hmong students concentrated in six Wisconsin cities perform well in school despite demographic conditions that are frequently blamed for poor academic performance in public schools: family poverty, unemployment, gang activities, early marriage and teen pregnancy among girls, and language difficulties.

In a 1997 study of Wisconsin’s Hmong population, Professor Ray Hutchinson, chairman of urban and regional studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, found that Hmong children performed at levels comparable to or better than those achieved by white students. In six Wisconsin school districts–Appleton, Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Sheboygan, and Wausau–where Hmong students were the largest minority population, Hutchinson found:

  • High school graduation rates for Asian students–who are overwhelmingly Hmong–were 95 percent higher than those of whites and other non-Asian students;
  • In four of the six school districts, Asian students performed at levels comparable to or above those of other students on third-grade reading tests;
  • Retention rates for 200 Hmong and other southeast Asians in the University of Wisconsin system surpass those of other groups.

“Hmong children will be more successful in their educational careers than any other immigrant or refugee group ever to come to the United States,” predicted Hutchinson, attributing this to strong family support from parents with high expectations who require children to complete homework and strictly limit their school-night and weekend activities.

The Hmong fought for the American forces in the war in Vietnam, and many fled the country to avoid retaliation when the war ended. By 1990, some 90,000 refugees had come to the United States and by 1997, there were 168,337. Only California, with 75,000, has a larger Hmong population than Wisconsin, which has 39,178.

For more information …

The December 1997 study by Ray Hutchinson, “The Educational Performance of Hmong Students in Wisconsin,” is available from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, P.O. Box 487, Thiensville, WI 53092, 414/241-0514. The study also is available through PolicyBot. Point your Web browser to request old documents #2177425 (part 1, 15 pp.); #2177426 (part 2, 17 pp.); and #2177427 (appendix and notes, 6 pp.)