Asians Don’t Ask? The Bamboo Ceiling in Starting Salary | CIRHR Research Seminar with Jackson G. Lu

When and Where

Wednesday, September 22, 2021 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm


Jackson G. Lu, MIT Sloan School of Management


Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 818 9547 4235
Passcode: 641498

In the US, Asians are commonly viewed as the “model minority” because of their economic prosperity. I challenge this rosy view by revealing a “Bamboo Ceiling” in starting salary. In Study 1, I analyzed a unique dataset of 19 class years of MBA students who accepted full-time job offers in the US. When considered under the larger ethnic “Asian” umbrella, Asians appeared to have starting salaries similarly high as Whites. However, a striking gap emerged once I distinguished among East Asians (e.g., ethnic Chinese), Southeast Asians (e.g., ethnic Singaporeans), and South Asians (e.g., ethnic Indians): Whereas South Asians started with the highest salaries of all ethnicities, East/Southeast Asians were near the bottom. This salary gap was mediated by East/Southeast Asians’ propensity to not negotiate due to higher relational concerns. In support of negotiation propensity as a mechanism, I identified industry as a boundary condition: The salary gap was not observed for consulting jobs, where MBA starting salaries are typically standard and non-negotiable. These results were robust after I accounted for American/international status, English proficiency, GPA, negotiation class enrollment, etc. Study 2 found similar results in a non-MBA sample while further accounting for bargain power (e.g., the number of alternative offers, the highest alternative offer). In revealing cultural differences between East/Southeast and South Asians, this research moves beyond the predominant East-vs-West paradigm in cross-cultural research, and uncovers an overlooked problem underneath Asian prosperity.