"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The Compelling Research on Diversity

SCOTUS is about to hear the Fisher v. University of Texas appeal, and the American Educational Research Association has just released a press kit to help the public understand the issues involved in supporting policy to assure diversity in schools, whether college or kindergarten.

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin II
Research Supporting the Compelling Interest in Diversity
Angelo Ancheta, J.D., M.P.A. 

One of the key questions that the U.S. Supreme Court may address in Fisher v. University of Texas is whether the University’s interest in promoting student body diversity is a compelling governmental interest. In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), the Court held that the interest in student body diversity is indeed compelling, and cited multiple sources, including scientific research findings, to support its ruling. The Court reaffirmed Grutter’s holding in the first Fisher v. University of Texas appeal, but the plaintiff has continued to argue that the University’s interest is not compelling. In particular, the plaintiff has proposed that promoting diversity among minority students (e.g., admitting African American students from different socioeconomic backgrounds) is unconstitutional. Nonetheless, research on the benefits of diversity remains strongly supportive of the University’s diversity interest, including promoting “intra-racial diversity.” To support the compelling interest in diversity, the AERA et al. amicus brief focuses on multiple lines of research, highlighting literature that has been published since the first Fisher litigation: 

Research continues to show that student body diversity leads to important educational benefits. Among these benefits are:
  •  Improvements in Intergroup Contact and Increased Cross-Racial Interaction
    •   Racially diverse educational settings are effective in reducing prejudice by
      promoting greater intergroup contactboth informally and in classroom settingsas well as encouraging friendship across group lines (e.g., Chang et al., 2006; Denson & Chang, 2015; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006).
    •   Meta-analyses (studies compiling and summarizing findings from several previous studies) show that positive intergroup contact reduces prejudice and that greater intergroup contact is associated with lower levels of prejudice (e.g., Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2008).
  •   Improvements in Cognitive Abilities, Critical Thinking Skills, and Self-Confidence
Student body diversity promotes improvements in students’ cognitive skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, because students’ exposure to
individuals different from themselves (as well as to novel ideas and situations arising from exposure) challenges their thinking and leads to cognitive growth (e.g., Antonio et al., 2004; Hurtado, 2005; Luo & Jamieson-Drake, 2009; Bowman, 2010).

Greater Civic Engagement
Diverse learning experiences also promote improvements in civic engagement,
including civic attitudes toward democratic participation, civic behaviors such as participating in community activities, and intentions to participate in civic activities (e.g., Bowman, 2011).
Gains in Pluralistic Orientation
Diversity leads to gains in “pluralistic orientation,” a metric tied to capacities for
thinking and social interaction that enable students to engage in cooperative behavior, to manage controversial issues, and to develop a high regard for others’ beliefs and backgrounds (Engberg & Hurtado, 2011). 

Improved Classroom Environments
Classroom learning is improved in diverse environments. For example, a survey
of over 500 students from the University of Michigan revealed that most respondents were engaged in positive interactions with students from different racial backgrounds, and that (a) greater diversity in the student body leads to increased classroom diversity and improved learning; (b) classroom diversity results in open minds and engaging classroom conversations; and (c) more structural diversity leads to greater participation by minority students and less tokenism (Deo, 2011). 

Improved Intergroup Dialogues
Recent research has also documented the necessity of diverse environments in
promoting intergroup dialogues in designated classes. One nationwide study of over 1,400 students found gains in students’ insights into how members of other groups perceived the world and increases in thoughtfulness about the underpinnings of inequality (Gurin et al., 2013).

Research studies examining the harms associated with racial isolation and tokenism, including negative stereotyping, “stereotype threat,” and overt discrimination, continue to reinforce the University’s interest in obtaining a diverse student body.

Isolation and Negative Stereotyping
Isolation, subordination, and negative stereotyping are commonplace in settings
where minority numbers are especially low and the norms of majority groups dominate (e.g., Thompson & Sekaquaptewa, 2002). Moreover, stereotyping by
white students can be exacerbated if they experience segregated pre-college and college environments; one study found that white students socialized in segregated environments are more likely to remain in white-dominated environments and less likely to engage in cross-racial interactions (Jayakumar, 2015). 
Stereotype Threat
Defined as the increased pressure on students arising from negative stereotypes
that leads to poor performance on tests and other measures, stereotype threat contributes to diminished academic performance among racial and ethnic minority students, as well as women in mathematics and science fields (e.g., Steele, 2010; Logel et al., 2012; Walton & Spencer, 2009).

Overt Discrimination and Subordination
  •   Hostile campus climates remain a problem on campuses with low diversity.
    Recent national surveys have found that problems of exclusion and discrimination were considerably more extensive on low-diversity campuses compared to high-diversity campuses. For instance, minority students were more often excluded from campus events and activities, were more often the target of discriminatory verbal comments, and had more experiences with offensive visual images (Hurtado & Ruiz, 2012; Hurtado & Ruiz Alvarado, 2015).
  •   Racial animosity and violence have occurred with greater frequency on campuses with low numbers of minority students. One study of FBI data and educational data found a significant relationship between minority underrepresentation and hate crime incidents (Stotzer & Hossellman, 2012).
The plaintiff in Fisher argues that trying to obtain a “critical mass” of minority students to achieve student body diversity is inherently unconstitutional, even though critical mass was fully endorsed by the Grutter Court. According to the plaintiff, critical mass is undefined and ambiguous, or it amounts to an unlawful quota. 

Contrary to the plaintiff’s assertion, “critical mass” is not a fixed number or percentage, and the literature suggests that it must be examined dynamically and contextually. Relevant factors to assess how critical mass promotes diversity include a campus’s racial climate, its historical legacies and institutional signals, impediments to productive interactions, and the nature of cross-racial interactions (Garces & Jayakumar, 2014). For example, historical legacies and
institutional signaling are highly relevant to campus climate and to recruitment and admissions policies designed to constitute a diverse student body; in the case of the University of Texas, the state’s unfortunate history of legal segregation and exclusion, as well as the disincentives to minority students to attend the University, are key factors in determining critical mass.
    Promoting diversity along multiple dimensions, including the intersection of race and class (sometimes framed as “intra-racial diversity” or “diversity within diversity”), is fully supported by legal precedent and the research literature (Carbado, 2013; Harpalani, 2012). Diversity among minority students is particularly important because it counters the stereotype that minority students are monolithic and that they think and behave in the same way.
    Research shows that socioeconomic diversity in tandem with racial diversity can lead to improved cross-racial interactions and learning. For example, a nationwide study of nearly 15,000 students at 88 institutions found that individual students who reported higher levels of cross-class interaction had significantly higher levels of cross-racial interactions and co- curricular diversity activities (Park et al., 2013).

    The claim that stigma increases under affirmative action programs is
    contradicted by a number of recent studies. Recent research indicates that stigma among minority studies is lower in states with race-conscious admissions (e.g., Bowen, 2010; Onwuachi-Willig et al., 2008).
Mismatch Hypothesis
  •   The claim that minority students suffer academic harms when their admissions
    credentials do not “match” their institutions finds limited support in the
    scientific literature.
  •   Research on undergraduates as well as on students at professional schools shows
    that minority students have higher graduation rates from attending more selective institutions (e.g., Kidder & Lempert, 2015; Kidder & Onwuachi- Willig, 2014; Bowen et al., 2009; Fischer & Massey, 2007; Cortes, 2010).
For example, a recent analysis of law school admissions nationwide compared race-conscious policies with class-conscious policies and found that race-conscious plans would be more effective in increasing minority representation in the upper tier of law schools, and that there
would be no statistically significant changes in the graduation and bar
passage rates of any demographic group (Xiang & Rubin, 2015).
Numerous studies show that minority students gain significant educational and economic benefits through their attendance at selective institutionsincluding
higher graduation rates and increased earnings and labor-force participation following graduation (e.g., Long, 2010; Dale & Krueger, 2014; Wolfe & Fletcher, 2013).

Deirdre M. Bowen, Brilliant Disguise: An Empirical Analysis of a Social Experiment Banning Affirmative Action, 85 Ind. L.J. 1197 (2010)
William G. Bowen, Matthew W. Chingos & Michael S. McPherson, Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities (2009)
Nicholas A. Bowman, College Diversity Experiences and Cognitive Development: A Meta-Analysis, 80 Rev. Educ. Res. 4 (2010)
Nicholas A. Bowman, Promoting Participation in a Diverse Democracy: A Meta-Analysis of College Diversity Experiences and Civic Engagement, 81 Rev. Educ. Res. 29 (2011)
Devon W. Carbado, Intraracial Diversity, 60 UCLA L. Rev. 1130 (2013)
Mitchell J. Chang et al.,
The Educational Benefits of Sustaining Cross-Racial Interaction
Among Undergraduates, 77 J. Higher Educ. 430 (2006)
Kalena E. Cortes,
Do Bans on Affirmative Action Hurt Minority Students? Evidence from the Texas
Top 10% Plan, 29 Econ. Educ. Rev. 1110 (2010)
Stacy Dale & Alan Krueger,
Estimating the Effects of College Characteristics over the Career Using
Administrative Earnings Data, J. Hum. Resources 323 (2014)
Nida Denson & Mitchell J. Chang,
Dynamic Relationships: Identifying Moderators that Maximize
Benefits Associated with Diversity, 86 J. Higher Educ. 1 (Jan./Feb. 2015)
Anthony Lising Antonio, Mitchell J. Chang, Kenji Hakuta, David A. Kenny, Shana Levin & Jeffrey F.
Milem, Effects of Racial Diversity on Complex Thinking in College Students,
15 Psychol. Sci. 507
Meera E. Deo, The Promise of Grutter: Diverse Interactions at the University of Michigan Law School, 17(1) Mich. J. Race & L. 63 (2011)
Mark E. Engberg & Sylvia Hurtado, Developing Pluralistic Skills and Dispositions in College: Examining Racial Ethnic Group Differences, 82 J. Higher Educ. 416 (2011)
Mary J. Fischer & Douglas S. Massey, The Effects of Affirmative Action in Higher Education, 36 Soc. Sci. Res. 531 (2007)
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Patricia Gurin et al., Dialogue Across Difference: Practice, Theory, and Research on Intergroup Dialogue (2013)
Vinay Harpalani, Diversity Within Racial Groups and the Constitutionality of Race-Conscious Admissions, 15 J. Const. L. 463 (2012)
Sylvia Hurtado, The Next Generation of Diversity and Intergroup Relations Research, 61 J. Soc. Issues 595 (2005)
Sylvia Hurtado & Adriana Ruiz, UCLA Higher Educ. Res. Inst., The Climate for Underrepresented Groups and Diversity on Campus (2012)
Sylvia Hurtado & Adriana Ruiz Alvarado, UCLA Higher Educ. Res. Inst., Discrimination and Bias, Underrepresentation, and Sense of Belonging on Campus (2015)
Uma M. Jayakumar, The Shaping of Postcollege Colorblind Orientation Among Whites: Residential Segregation and Campus Diversity Experiences, Harv. Educ. Rev. (forthcoming Winter 2015)
William C. Kidder & Richard O. Lempert, The Mismatch Myth in U.S. Higher Education: A Synthesis of the Empirical Evidence at the Law School and Undergraduate Levels, in Affirmative Action and Racial Equity (Uma M. Jayakumar & Liliana M. Garces eds. 2015)
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Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Emily Houh & Mary Campbell, Cracking the Egg: Which Came FirstStigma or Affirmative Action?, 96 Calif. L. Rev. 1299 (2008)
Julie J. Park, Nida Denson & Nicholas A. Bowman, Does Socioeconomic Diversity Make a Difference? Examining the Effects of Racial and Socioeconomic Diversity on the Campus Climate for Diversity, 50 Am. Educ. Research J. 466 (2013)
Thomas F. Pettigrew & Linda R. Tropp, A Meta-Analytic Test of Intergroup Contact Theory, 90 J. Personality & Soc. Psychol. 751 (2006)
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Claude M. Steele, Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us (2010) Rebecca L. Stotzer & Emily Hossellman, Hate Crimes on Campus: Racial/Ethnic Diversity and
Campus Safety, 27 J. Interpersonal Violence 644 (2012)
Mischa Thompson & Denise Sekaquaptewa,
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Underestimate the Intellectual Ability of Negatively Stereotyped Students, 20 Psychol. Sci. 1132 (2009) Barbara L. Wolfe & Jason Fletcher, Estimating Benefits from University-Level Diversity (Feb. 2013)
Alice Xiang & Donald B. Rubin Assessing the Potential Impact of a Nationwide Class-Based Affirmative Action System, 30 Stat. Sci. 297 (2015)

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