Term Paper: Race, Ethnicity, and Academic Achievement

Pages: 11 (2817 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] The fourth set of regressions will follow the pattern of the first set. Reading skills and math skills will serve as the dependent variables. However, the racial category of Hispanic will be further broken into Cuban (independent), Puerto Rican (independent), Mexican (independent) and Other Hispanic (independent). The same will be done for the racial category Asian.

The results for each racial sub-group will then be compared to the values generated in the first regression. These comparisons will highlight if academic achievement can vary within each racial subgroup.

Limitations of this Study

As with any quantitative statistical study, there are limitations to this proposed research design.

First, the category of race itself can be problematic. Racial categories always include subjective assessments. Thus, a person who is of both Black and Asian origin will generally be classified as one or the other, not both.

Such an exclusion would not adequately describe the ethnicity or racial identification of many of the growing number of biracial or multiracial children.

Furthermore, the category of "Hispanic" can include many people of Caucasian ancestry. Sometimes, the classification can be arbitrary. For example, a child whose parents are Caucasians from Argentina will generally be classified as "White" if she speaks English fluently and "Hispanic" if she does not.

Second, the NELS '88 does not have any sub-groupings for the racial categories of African-American, White and Native American. This could obscure important differences within the racial categories, such as those between the various Native American nations.

In addition, such categories will also mute the effect of immigration. Thus, an immigrant child from Ghana will be classified as African-American, along with a child born in the country.

Because of limitations, this study will focus on math and reading skills and does not measure other forms of intelligence, such as spatial reasoning, music ability or vocational skills.

The basic skills of math and reading were chosen, however, because these skills form the foundation of and are the main indicators for later educational success.

This researcher believes, however, that these limitations do not invalidate the research design or its anticipated results. Common knowledge holds that race plays a strong role in determining a student's educational achievements and most empirical studies simply show a correlation between the two factors. This study, however, will both examine the degree and direction of that correlation.

While some of the racial categories may be problematic, this researcher believes that the data presented in NELS '88 is wide enough to be nationally representative. Further multiple regressions on the various subgroups among Whites, African-Americans and Native Americans can be conducted if the data becomes available.

Finally, there are also a host of other variables that could either enhance or mute the effects of race on academic achievement. These variables could include religion, geography, gender and family structure. For the purposes of this study, however, the author chose to focus on the variables of socio-economic status and proficiency in English.

Despite these limitations, this proposed study still has much to contribute to the greater body of knowledge that studies the effect of race on academic achievement.

First, it includes groups that were previously neglected, such as Asians and Native Americans. Second, it looks at how factors like socioeconomic status and proficiency in English can mute or enhance the effect of race. Finally, by looking at the available disaggregated data, this paper will contribute to a more nuanced analysis to the literature on race and ethnicity.

Anticipated Results

Based on several previous studies (Jencks and Phillips, 1998; Hale, 2001; Wang, 1998) this proposed research design expects that race will indeed play a factor in influencing test scores. In particular, this study anticipates that the scores of African-American students and Hispanic students will be lower than their White or Asian counterparts.

In the matter of socioeconomic status, this research design paper predicts that belonging to a higher income group will result in an increase in the dependent variables of math and reading scores. This effect will most likely be felt across all racial categories.

This enhancing effect is predicted for two reasons. First, the more affluent students will most likely reside in communities with high property values and good school districts. Second, more affluent families will have more money to spend on private learning programs that tutor children in these specific skills. In fact, many such programs focus on teaching children how to excel at tests in place of teaching the real reading and math skills.

The lack of adequate English proficiency is expected to adversely affect reading skills more than math skills. After all, reading, by its very nature, will be highly dependent on fluency in the English language. While mathematical questions may be easier for a non-English speaker, the dependent variable of math skills may also be adversely affected if inadequate language skills hamper a student's understanding of the test instructions.

Finally, the paper also expects to find differences in the test scores within the main categories of Asian and Hispanic. Lumping disparate cultures such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Filipino together in one category falsely assumes that these ethnicities all co-exist happily in far-away Asia.

In fact, observes Eric Liu (1998), there are many deep cleavages within the Asian-American community itself. Profound schisms have existed for decades between Chinese and Japanese, Korean and Japanese, Pakistanis and Indians.

However, in the United States, the important differences and schisms between these ethnicities is obscured under the umbrella category of Asian-American. This, observes Liu, means that the term "Asian-Americans" is little more than an imagined community. Asian-Americans are united not by a common culture but simply by the way they look (Liu 1998).

There is a high possibility that this "imagined community" effect is observable in other racial categories as well. As discussed earlier, the category "Hispanic" is itself problematic. Significant cleavages could appear within the Hispanic and Native American subgroupings.

Discussion of Anticipated Results

This research paper aims to contribute to the greater body of research on race and education achievement in three ways. First, it aims to add a statistical, quantitative research to the current studies on educational policies regarding the gaps in academic achievement. Researches such as Ogbu and Davis (2003) have provoked an outcry with their controversial positions, yet their research is based on observations that are not statistically or empirically proven.

Second, the gap in test scores is often seen in terms of Black and White, ignoring the effects and educations needs of other racial categories, such as Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans. This paper seeks to remedy this blind spot by including test scores from these subgroups.

Finally, this paper looks at the additional effect factors like socioeconomic status, language proficiency and membership in a racial subgroup can have on a student's math and reading skills. Further studies are proposed to see if the conclusions drawn from these multiple regressions hold. In addition, other studies can be conducted to see if other independent factors - like gender and religion - can affect the complicated relationship of race, socioeconomic status and academic achievement.

The gap in math and reading scores is a clear indicator that the educational system is failing a significant segment of its students. Studies such as these are the fist step towards examining why and taking steps to ensure that the educational system addresses the needs of all its constituents.


Dozier, Arthur Lee and Michael James Barnes (1997). "Ethnicity, drug user status and academic performance." Adolescence. 32(128): 825-837.

Hale, Janice E. (2001). Learning While Black: Creating educational excellence for African-American children. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.

Jencks, Christopher and Meredith Phillips (1998). The Black-White Test Score Gap. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

Liu, Eric (1999). The Accidental Asian: Notes of a native speaker. New York: Random House.

Ogbu, John U. And Astrid Davis (2003). Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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