The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America

Overview

"That certain groups do much better in America than othersas measured by income, occupational status, test scores, and so onis difficult to talk about. In large part this is because the topic feels racially charged. The irony is that the facts actually debunk racial stereotypes. There are black and Hispanic subgroups in the United States far outperforming many white and Asian subgroups. Moreover, there’s a demonstrable arc to group successin immigrant groups, it typically dissipates by the third ...

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The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America

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Overview

"That certain groups do much better in America than othersas measured by income, occupational status, test scores, and so onis difficult to talk about. In large part this is because the topic feels racially charged. The irony is that the facts actually debunk racial stereotypes. There are black and Hispanic subgroups in the United States far outperforming many white and Asian subgroups. Moreover, there’s a demonstrable arc to group successin immigrant groups, it typically dissipates by the third generationpuncturing the notion of innate group differences and undermining the whole concept of 'model minorities.'"
Mormons have recently risen to astonishing business success. Cubans in Miami climbed from poverty to prosperity in a generation. Nigerians earn doctorates at stunningly high rates. Indian and Chinese Americans have much higher incomes than other Americans; Jews may have the highest of all.

 
Why do some groups rise? Drawing on groundbreaking original research and startling statistics, The Triple Package uncovers the secret to their success. A superiority complex, insecurity, impulse control—these are the elements of the Triple Package, the rare and potent cultural constellation that drives disproportionate group success. The Triple Package is open to anyone. America itself was once a Triple Package culture. It’s been losing that edge for a long time now. Even as headlines proclaim the death of upward mobility in America, the truth is that the oldfashioned American Dream is very much alive—butsome groups have a cultural edge, which enables them to take advantage of opportunity far more than others.
 
•   Americans are taught that everyone is equal, that no group is superior to another. But remarkably, all of America’s most successful groups believe (even
if they don’t say so aloud) that they’re exceptional, chosen, superior in some way.
•   Americans are taught that self-esteem—feeling good about yourself—is the key to a successful life. But in all of America’s most successful groups,
people tend to feel insecure, inadequate, that they have to prove themselves.
•   America today spreads a message of immediate gratification, living for the moment. But all of America’s most successful groups cultivate heightened discipline and impulse control.
 
But the Triple Package has a dark underside too. Each of its elements carries distinctive pathologies; when taken to an extreme, they can have truly toxic effects. Should people strive for the Triple Package? Should America? Ultimately, the authors conclude that the Triple Package is a ladder that should be climbed and then kicked away, drawing on its power but breaking free from its constraints.

Provocative and profound, The Triple Package will transform the way we think about success and achievement.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 12/16/2013
In their provocative new book, Chua (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) and Rubenfeld (The Interpretation of Murder)—Yale Law professors and spouses—show why certain groups in the U.S. perform better than others. Studying the more material measures of success— income, occupational status, and test scores—the authors found, for example, that Mormons occupy leading positions in politics and business; the Ivy League admission rates of West Indian and African immigrant groups far exceed those of non-immigrant American blacks (a group left behind by these measures); and Indian and Jewish Americans have the highest incomes. According to the authors, three traits breed success: a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control. Only when this “Triple Package” comes together does it “generate drive, grit, and systematic disproportionate group success.” Supported by statistics and original research, the authors also analyze each trait as they explore the experience of other rising cultural groups: Chinese-Americans, Iranians, Cubans, and others. This comprehensive, lucid sociological study balances its findings with a probing look at the downsides of the triple package—the burden of carrying a family’s expectations, and deep insecurities that come at a psychological price. Agents: Tina Bennett, William Morris Endeavor (Chua), Suzanne Gluck, William Morris Endeavor (Rubenfeld). (Feb.)
Library Journal
02/01/2014
Most Americans have observed that some ethnic or religious groups seem disproportionately successful; they wonder why. Chua (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) and Rubenfeld (The Interpretation of Murder), professors at Yale Law School and wife and husband, researched the question. They focused on several groups—Mormons, Jews, Indians, Nigerians, Chinese, Iranians, Lebanese, and Cubans—and came up with a general theory. They provide empirical evidence that each group is economically successful above the average of most Americans and likewise, in most cases, hold status positions well above the norm. The traits these groups share seem to be threefold, as per the title. They tend to have a "superiority complex," seeing themselves as special in some way, e.g., by possessing an ancient heritage or considering themselves chosen by God. Second, their place in larger society is insecure owing to either recent immigration, historic prejudice, or outright discrimination. Third, their culture inculcates hard work along with discipline in what Chua and Rubenfeld call "impulse control." Interestingly, the final chapter broadens the thesis to the United States as a whole and questions the country's ongoing utility. VERDICT This is popular sociology at its best: well researched, heavily noted, and clearly written. Not for specialists, it is recommended to all curious general readers and is likely to promote debate.—David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia
Kirkus Reviews
2013-12-08
Husband and wife professors at Yale Law School explore why some cultural groups in the United States are generally more successful than others. Chua made waves in 2011 with her controversial best-selling book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which contrasted the high-expectation stance of a certain kind of Chinese mother with that of the relatively relaxed style of most other mothers in America. This book explores the reasons why some groups, such as those of Asian heritage, are succeeding disproportionately to their numbers in the population at large. (Yes, tiger mothering has something to do with it.) Why do Asian-Americans dominate admissions at the Ivy League and other top universities? Why are so many Nobel Prize winners Jewish? Why are there so many Mormon CEOs? Why are Nigerian-born Americans overrepresented among doctorates and MDs? Chua and Rubenfeld (The Death Instinct, 2010, etc.) argue that each of these groups is endowed with a "triple package" of values that together make for a potent engine driving members to high rates of success: Each views their group as special (think of the Jewish idea of "the chosen people"); each has instilled in them an insecurity about their worthiness that can only be palliated by achievement; and each is taught the values of impulse control and hard work. The authors claim that the U.S. was originally a triple-package nation. However, while Americans still view their country as exceptional, in the last 30 years, the other two parts of the package have gone out the window, replaced by a popular culture that values egalitarianism, self-esteem and instant gratification, creating a vacuum for more motivated groups to fill. On a highly touchy subject, the authors tread carefully, backing their assertions with copious notes. Though coolly and cogently argued, this book is bound to be the spark for many potentially heated discussions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143126355
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 1/27/2015
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 286,538

Meet the Author

Amy Chua

Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld are professors at Yale Law School. Chua, one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2011, is the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which unleashed a firestorm debate about the cultural value of self-discipline, as well as the bestselling World on Fire. Rubenfeld examined the political dangers of “living in the moment” in Freedom and Time; he is also the author of the international bestseller The Interpretation of Murder.
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Read an Excerpt

If there’s one group in the United States today that’s hitting it out of the park with conventional success, it’s Mormons. Just fifty years ago, many Americans had barely heard of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and regarded Mormons as a fringe group. Now Mormons are one of the most successful groups in America. Overwhelmingly, Mormon success has been of the most mainstream, conventional, apple-pie, 1950s variety. You don’t find a lot of Mormons breaking the mold or dropping out of college to form their own high-tech start-ups. What you find is corporate, financial, and political success, which makes perfect sense given the nature of the Mormon chip on the shoulder. Long regarded as a polygamous, almost crackpot, sect, Mormons seem determined to prove they’re more American than other Americans.

Whereas Protestants make up about 51 percent of the U.S. population, America’s five million to six million Mormons comprise just 1.7 percent. Yet a stunning number have risen to the top of America’s corporate and political spheres. Baptists are America’s largest Christian denomination, with a population of forty million to fifty million, about eight times the size of the Mormon population. The roster of living Baptist corporate powerhouses is not, however, eight times the size of the Mormon list. On the contrary, available data indicate it’s much smaller.

Here’s another data point: In February 2012, Goldman Sachs announced the addition of three hundred more employees to the thirteen hundred already working in the firm’s third largest metropolitan center of operations (after New York/New Jersey and London). Where is this sixteen-hundred-employee headquarters? In Salt Lake City, Utah. By reputation, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business school is one of the nation’s best and most prestigious. In 2010, Wharton placed thirty-one of its graduates with Goldman—exactly the same number as did Brigham Young University’s less well-known Marriott School of Management.

The real testament to Mormons’ extraordinary capacity to earn and amass wealth, however, is the LDS Church itself. The amount of American land owned by the Mormon church is larger than the State of Delaware. The entire Church of England, with its grand history, had assets of about $6.9 billion as of 2008. The Vatican claimed $5 billion in assets as of 2002. By comparison, the Church of the Latter-day Saints is believed to have owned $25 billion to $30 billion in assets as of 1997, with present revenues of $5 billion to $6 billion a year. As one study puts it, “Per capita, no other religion comes close to such figures.”

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