On May 8 in Poor Little Tiger Cub, Slate wrote about a March 2013 study of the children of Tiger Mothers by Su Yeong Kim at the University of Texas. Kim studied 444 Chinese American families (what an unlucky number!) and concluded that the children of Amy Chua-like tiger parents had lower GPAs and educational attainment. These children also had more symptoms of depression and a greater sense of alienation.
This is a subject near and dear to my heart. For my final project at a Columbia Teachers College statistics course in May 2011, classmate Ajay Srikanth and I crunched federal data on kindergarteners (ECLS-K). We found, among kindergarteners in 1998-1999, that the children of tiger mothers, on average, scored just a little higher on reading and math tests than other kids did. But we used a small 3,000 subsample of the original 20,000 student data set. And we always wanted to run the regressions again on the full data and track the kids to see how they did later in life.
The main problem in these data studies is how you define “tiger parenting” and how you decide which kids get classified as the children of tiger moms. We employed a “factor analysis technique with varimax rotation”. That’s just a fancy way of saying that we put a bunch of parent attributes in a big salad spinner and noted how they clumped together. We then defined tiger parents as ones who had high expectations, high parental involvement and were strict. But you could arbitrarily decide that tiger moms don’t really get down on the ground and build things together with their kids, for example, and take that out of the equation. And so, as your group of tiger cubs change, so do your conclusions.