Do Tiger Moms Drive Kids to Suicide?

by John Derbyshire

Some readers of my Tiger Mom piece in the Feb. 7 National Review wonder if the kind of intense pressure applied by Amy Chua drives many kids to suicide.

If it did you’d expect to find high suicide rates for young Asian-Americans. The data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control (see table 42 here) shows very high rates for Native Americans, low rates for blacks, and the rest of us (Hispanic, White Non-Hispanic, Asian) much of a muchness.

The actual numbers for 2009 are as follows. This is for the 15–24 age group, numbers per 100,000 of population:

  Female     Male    
Non-Hispanic White       3.5 18.5
Black 1.8 10.6
Hispanic 2.6 11.6
Asian 4.0 12.0
Native American 8.9 35.9

It’s entirely possible that things go differently in the home countries. There are, for example, some sensational rates reported for India here:

The average suicide rate for young women aged between 15 to 19 living around Vellore in Tamil Nadu was 148 per 100,000. This compares to just 2.1 suicides per 100,000 in the same group in the UK.

The etiology of suicide is a very tangled business, though, as I found out when doing an article on it some years ago. To figure out what part is played by Tiger Mom academic-expectation pressures would be a major job of data analysis. Perhaps someone’s done it, though I can’t find a reference. If not, I’ll do it … if someone pays me.

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