Homogeneity and Inequality: Black-White Differences in School Discipline and the Role of School Racial Composition

Linsey N. Edwards, Princeton University

Research consistently demonstrates that Black students are disproportionately subject to behavioral sanctions, yet little is known about contextual variation. This paper explores the relationship between school racial composition and racial inequality in discipline. Prior work suggests that demographic composition predicts harsh punishment of minorities. Accordingly, a threat framework suggests that increases in Black student enrollment correspond to increases in punitive school policies. Results from this paper find some support for this hypothesis, finding that the percent of black students in a school is related to increased odds of suspension/expulsion, and differential effects of behavior partially mediate these relationships. However, I also find that a traditional threat narrative may be insufficient. Black students may be most likely to experience unequal sanctions on their behavior in racially homogenous contexts—whether homogenously Black or White. These results suggest that more research is needed to understand how the social organization of schools contributes to discipline inequality.

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Presented in Session 195: Race and Ethnicity: Policies, Patterns, and Processes