Massey, Douglas S., & Fischer, Mary
The Effect of Childhood Segregation on Minority Academic Performance at Selective Colleges
Effects of housing and school segregation during childhood on academic performance in college.
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
Ethic and Racial Studies
Vol. 29, No. 1, January, pp. 1-26
- Black and Latino college students, even those enrolled in the nation's most selective academic institutions, display large differences in background and experiences that are strongly conditioned by racial segregation. Those coming of age in a segregated environment were less prepared academically and socially for college life, and were more exposed to violence and social disorder while growing up.
- Respondents from predominantly White background grew up in schools and neighborhoods where Black and Latinos together averaged less than 30 percent of the population; those from mixed background came of age in settings that averaged 30 per cent to 69 percent Black or Latino; and those from predominantly minority backgrounds spent their time in settings that averaged 70 per cent minority or greater.
- Although Latinos and Blacks were less likely than either Asians or Whites to complete advanced placement courses, they were much less likely to have done so if they grew up in a predominantly minority as opposed to predominantly majority settings.
- Among Blacks and Latinos a familiar patter emerged. Those who grew up in predominantly White contexts scored an average of 42.8 on the family stress index, slightly higher than that of Asians, but family stress rose substantially as minority concentration increased.
- Exposure to environmental stressors is thus markedly higher among minority students who come from segregated school and neighborhoods backgrounds.
- Prior school and neighborhood segregation clearly differentiates the experience of African American and Latino students attending selective schools in the US.
- In contrast to the relative homogeneity of White and Asian backgrounds, Latinos and especially Blacks experienced a diversity of school and neighborhood compositions while growing up.
- Blacks and Latinos from predominantly White settings are slightly more likely to have a foreign- born parent (42%) than those coming from mixes or predominantly Blacks or Latino contexts (39%).
- While at least 82-84 % of Whites and Asians grew up in an intact mother-father household, the percentage of Blacks and Latinos coming form intact households declines dramatically as we move from predominately White contexts (71%) to predominately minority contexts (46%).
- The number of siblings under the age of 18 in the household also rises with Black and Latino concentration, meaning that fewer resources must be divided among a greater number of dependants.
- Blacks and Latinos who grew up in predominately White settings have, on average, parents who are nearly as educated as those of Whites and Asians. In contrast, 32% of Blacks and Latinos who grew up in racially mixed settings came from households in which neither parent had a college degree.
- Shifting a student from a completely integrated to a completely segregated background is expected to lower his or her cumulative GPA by 0.13 points.
- One important reason that students who grew up in minority dominant settings earn lower grades in college is that by virtue of their prior segregation they were less prepared academically to do well.
- Whereas neither psychological preparation nor family stress appear to account for segregation's negative effect on college GPA, both social preparation and environmental stress play a significant role.
- Growing up in a minority-dominant environment leaves students more vulnerable to negative peer influences and also because it exposures them to elevated levels of violence and disorder that have long-term effects on academic performance. These performance effects are not necessarily through the impairment of cognitive ability per se, but appear to operate through other aspects of cognition, such as attention and memory.
- Data indicates that separate is not equal. Black and Latino students who grew up under conditions of segregation were less prepared academically than those coming from majority dominant settings. Indeed, those minority students who where fortunate enough to grow up in predominately majority contexts generally experienced a quality of schooling and levels of academic preparation comparable to those of Whites and Asians.
- Evidence that students growing up in a predominantly minority context were more susceptible to negative peer influences, although differences between those from integrated and segregated backgrounds were not great.
- Blacks an Latinos who came of age in integrated surroundings were generally exposed to levels of disorder and violence that were comparable to the levels experienced by Whites and Asians. As segregation increased, however, the risk of exposure to disorder and especially violence multiplied greatly.
- The degree of school and neighborhood segregation experienced between the ages of 6 and 18 was strongly associated with diminished academic performance later, as measure by the GPA earned during the first three terms of college and university.
- Four background factors explained most of segregation's effect on GPA: parental education, academic preparation, social preparation, and environmental stress.
- The working hypothesis of the authors is that long-term exposure to stressful neighborhood act to reduce long and short-term memory, limit attention, and lower frustration thresholds.
Journal Article Empirical Research
Academic Achievement, College, Hispanics, Latinos, Long Term Outcomes, Minorities, Neighborhood, Segregation, Violence
Secondary Survey Data
Method of Analysis:
Students entering selective US colleges
Unit of Analysis:
- Data comes from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen (NLSF).
- Sample included 998 Whites, 959 Asians, 916 Latinos, and 1,051 African Americans.
- 4,573 randomly selected respondents where approached, and 3,924 face-to-face interviews were completed.
- Survey was designed to gather extensive information about respondents prior to entering college and to measure in some detail their initial attitudes, motivations and perceptions.
- DV: Academic achievement (grades earned during the autumn and spring Terms of academic year 1999-2000 and the autumn of academic year 2000-2001.
- IV: Racial composition, academic quality of schools which they attended, kinds of academic and non-academic resources they contained, disorder within schools, certain indicators of violence (all of these were asked to students in the survey).
- The measure of socioeconomic status used was a three indicator measure: did family own home during senior year, did family was ever on welfare, and has family applied for financial aid for the respondent to attend college.