What Matters Most? Analyzing Differential College Dropout by Race and Ethnicity

Christina Ciocca, Columbia University
Thomas A. DiPrete, Columbia University

Black and Hispanic students have lower rates of persistence to degree than do white students, conditional on beginning a postsecondary program. This paper analyzes three factors contributing to the disparity: individual background and academic performance, which produce racial/ethnic differences in the risk of dropout; group distinctions in the probability that high school graduates will enter a degree program, given their a priori risk of dropout; and specific sorting by race/ethnicity into different levels of postsecondary institutions, which impacts students' probability of persistence. We find that black students with higher predicted probabilities of dropout are more likely to begin four-year programs than are white or Hispanic students. This "academically risky" behavior produces a higher rate of dropout for black students. But it also increases their rate of degree completion by nearly 2%, relative to what it would be if they entered four-year colleges in the same manner as white students.

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Presented in Session 160: Educational Achievement and Attainment