Asians 17% more likely to make Dean’s Honors List at UW Math

Are east asians good at math? Common sense says so, but let’s see if the data backs it up.

First, we scrape Learn for a list of all undergraduate math students.

All UW math students are automatically enrolled in this course, and you can get a list of all 7755 students and their emails here. The interface only shows you 200 students at a time, so I wrote a scraper to automatically go through 39 pages of students.

How to determine which students are east asian? For this analysis, I consider east asian to be people of Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese surnames. Here’s the 100 most common last names in UW math:

`307 Wang279 Li244 Zhang231 Chen203 Liu111 Yang111 Wu93 Xu91 Huang84 Zhou78 Zhu76 Lee74 Zhao73 Lin62 Yu61 Sun56 Lu48 Hu47 Gao45 Guo44 Ma44 Kim43 Zheng43 Luo43 Jiang41 Chan39 Tang39 Shi39 He34 Yuan34 Jin32 Pan31 Song30 Cheng28 Zeng28 Yan27 Liang26 Park26 Cai25 Ye25 Xiao25 Wong24 Xie24 Shen24 Lai24 Gu24 Feng24 Cao23 Ng22 Tan22 Han22 Deng21 Ren21 Qin20 Nguyen19 Zhong18 Yao18 Patel18 Fu17 Wei17 Qiu17 Leung17 Lam17 Dong16 Xue16 Tian16 Khan16 Ji16 Du16 Dai16 Cui16 Choi15 Smith15 Cho14 Wen14 Tran14 Tao14 Su14 Meng13 Zou13 Singh13 Peng13 Ding12 Yin12 Ni12 Kang12 Jia12 Guan12 Fan12 Chow12 Chang11 Yeung11 Hong11 Ho10 Xing10 Xia10 Weng10 Wan10 Tsang10 Shan`

Most of these names are asian, with the first non-asian names being “Patel” with 18 occurrences, “Smith” with 15, and “Singh” with 13. For this analysis, I considered a student to be asian if their last name has ≥ 20 occurrences (so from Wang -> Nguyen).

This underestimates the number of asians, but it’s close enough for our purposes. Since we’re comparing the honor roll rate between two groups, the split doesn’t have to be exact. We split the population into 3415 asians and 4340 non-asians.

Next, I scrape the list of students on the UW Math Dean’s Honors List. Each term, all students with term average above 87% qualify for Term Dean’s Honors List, and their names are available on the web page.

For a sampling of students on the honor roll, I concatenated the list of all students on the honors list for the most recent 3 terms: Winter 2016, Fall 2015, and Spring 2015. This gives 1459 students (non-unique).

Of these 1459 students, 699 are asian (as defined above) and 760 are non-asian.

With this data, we can tabulate the ratio of honor roll counts to total math undergraduate counts for asians and non-asians:

Note: the ratio is NOT the proportion of asians that make the honors list — it is not the case that 19% of students every term enter the honors list. We don’t know how many students are in school each term (vs on co-op). However, as long as the proportion of students on co-op is the same for asians and non-asians, this ratio still reflects the difference in honor roll rates for the two groups.

From the ratios 0.205 for asians and 0.175 for non-asians, we see that asians are 17% more likely to make the honors list.

Is this statistically significant? Using R, I performed Fisher’s test of significance, which yields a p-value of 0.0064. So yes, the result is significant.