Understanding Racial Differences in Educational Outcomes: An Examination of Positional, Relational, and Interactional Processes

Sarah K. Bruch, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Lawrence M. Berger, University of Wisconsin at Madison

We draw on recent scholarship calling for more sophisticated approaches to the measurement, modeling, and theories of race to articulate a conceptual framework of the potential pathways through which racial differences in education outcomes may occur. An empirical application of this framework using Add Health data and structural equation models examines direct and indirect paths through which racial categories associate with educational attainment and achievement for adolescents. We integrate a reflexive conceptualization of race into a unified framework and modeling strategy that considers ecological contexts and social processes that are salient to understanding racial differences. We find that indirect effects of race make up a considerable portion of the total effects, meaning that a substantial amount of the association between education outcomes and racial categories occurs through the social process mediators in the models, providing strong evidence in support of the conceptualization of race as being enacted through social processes.

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Presented in Session 159: What is 'Race' in Education Research?