Chinese and other immigrant groups often intrigue Westerners by the academic and often professional success of their children. Writing early this month in The Times of London with the headline “The ethnic question we’re too scared to ask”, Trevor Phillips asked: “Why do some minority groups do better than others? The answer could change Britain for good.” Phillips is no mere pundit. In Britain, he has been deputy chairman of the board of the National Equality Standard, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and head of the Commission for Racial Equality. “Poor Chinese and Indian children set a puzzle for educators by succeeding where better-off children fail,” he wrote. If Phillips has asked this question, most likely others are thinking along the same line, too. In Indonesia, new Chinese migrants not as welcome as Chinese cash In 2010, he was the principal author of an official report titled “How Fair Is Britain?” It noted that by the standard measure of success at 16-plus age – five GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education under the British system) including English and maths – among whites, “the gap between those on free school meals (roughly children of families living below the poverty line) and the average was about 32 per cent but poor Chinese children were just 1 per cent adrift of their better-off peers”. He noted further: “This is not an exclusively British phenomenon. In 2014, a study of 14,000 Australian 15-year-olds showed that, on average, pupils of Chinese heritage were academically two-and-a-half years ahead of others.” And in New York, ethnic Chinese make up fewer than a tenth of the city’s population, yet about 82 per cent of the places in the best schools went to Asian-Americans. This phenomenon is also seen in admissions to the most prestigious universities in the United States, resulting in a recent failed lawsuit against those universities for imposing “ethnic” quotas. In Britain, Chinese children do more homework – 10.3 hours a week compared with the national average of 6.8 hours. Last year, Chinese and Indian-heritage Britons took home higher pay than white people, earning 23.1 per cent and 15.5 per cent more per hour respectively. Personally, looking at the immigration history of my own extended family to Canada dating from shortly after World War II, I don’t find there is much mystery to the phenomenon. It has little to do with culture or genetics. Rather, the operative word is immigration. Gold drew the Chinese to Australia, why is their legacy largely forgotten? The first-generation immigrants may be poor and uneducated, but what they have is drive and ambition. They are a small, self-selecting group that chooses to leave their homeland for a strange place in search of a better life and more opportunities. It’s not unusual for the next generation to have a university education, or even professional qualifications to become doctors, lawyers and engineers. Once they have achieved middle-class status, it’s not that difficult for the following generation to achieve similar socioeconomic status and earning powers. Economists and other social scientists have long known that the best predictors of a child’s future social status and earnings are those of their parents. After a few generations, the immigrant families have gone native; and their children revert to the means and norms of the locals. Some of my younger relatives work as hairdressers and waitresses in Canada while aspiring to be rock stars and actresses. But then, maybe my family just lacks superior Chinese genes.