William Petersen (demographer)

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William Petersen (born 1912) is an American sociologist and demographer.[1]


Petersen gained a PhD from Columbia University in 1954. He taught in the Sociology Department at the University of California at Berkeley from 1953 to 1956 and 1959 to 1966. During his time here, he became influential in the perpetuation of the model minority myth, typecasting East Asian Americans (specifically Japanese Americans) as "successful." He attributed this "success" to Japanese Americans' obedience and their ability to overcome the "self-defeating apathy or self-hatred" that other racial minorities, specifically Black Americans, that cause them to "react negatively" to new opportunities and equal opportunities. In reality, Asian Americans were afforded more opportunity and better treatment than were Black Americans and other racial minorities. This myth was used as a tactic to justify anti-Black oppression.[2][3] From 1966 to 1967, Petersen was professor of sociology at Boston College, and from 1967 to 1978 he was the Robert Lazarus Professor of Social Demography at Ohio State University.[1]


  • Planned Migration: The Social Determinants of the Dutch-Canadian Movement, 1955.
  • (ed.) American Social Patterns: Studies of Race Relations, Popular Heroes, Voting, Union Democracy and Government Bureaucracy, 1956
  • Population, 1961. Second edition, 1969. Third edition, 1975.
  • (ed.) The realities of world communism, 1963
  • (ed. with David Matza) Social controversy, 1963
  • 'Success Story: Japanese-American Style', New York Times Magazine, 9 January 1966, pp.20ff
  • 'Migration: Social Aspects', International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, New York: Macmillan & The Free Press, 1968, Vol. 10, pp.286-292
  • Japanese Americans: Oppression and Success, 1971
  • (ed.) Readings in Population, 1972
  • Malthus, 1979
  • (with Rene Peterson) Dictionary of Demography: Biographies, 1985
  • 'Politics and the Measurement of Ethnicity', in William Alonso & Paul Starr, eds., The Politics of Numbers, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1986
  • Ethnicity counts, 1997
  • Against the Stream: Reflections of an Unconventional Demographer, 2004


  1. ^ a b Heer, David M. Kingsley Davis: A Biography And Selections From His Writings. Transaction Publishers. p. 51. ISBN 978-1-4128-2716-4.
  2. ^ "'Model Minority' Myth Again Used As A Racial Wedge Between Asians And Blacks". NPR.org. Retrieved 2019-05-14.
  3. ^ "Model minority", Deep web, 2019-04-29, retrieved 2019-05-14