Research

  • Unpacking the Drivers of Racial Disparities in School Suspension and Expulsion (with Sara McLanahan) [Forthcoming, Social Forces]


School suspension and expulsion are important forms of punishment that disproportionately affect Black students, with long-term consequences for educational attainment and other indicators of wellbeing. Prior research identifies three mechanisms that help account for racial disparities in suspension and expulsion: between-school sorting, differences in student behaviors, and differences in the treatment and support of students with similar behaviors. We extend this literature by (1) comparing the contributions of these three mechanisms in a single study, (2) assessing behavior and school composition when children enter kindergarten and before most are exposed to school discipline, and (3) using both teacher and parent reports of student behaviors. Decomposition analyses reveal that differential treatment and support account for 46% of the Black/White gap in suspension/expulsion, while between-school sorting and differences in behavior account for 21% and 9% of the gap respectively. Results are similar for boys and girls and robust to the use of school fixed effects and measures of school composition and student behavior at ages 5 and 9. Theoretically, our findings highlight differential treatment/support after children enter school as an important but understudied mechanism in the early criminalization of Black students. 

  • Relationships Between an ADHD Diagnosis and Future School Behaviors among Children with Mild Behavioral Problems [Revise and Resubmit]


ADHD is the most common behavioral disorder among American children. ADHD diagnoses have risen both among children with severe and mild behavioral problems, partly in response to mounting academic pressure. This study examines the consequences of ADHD diagnosis. Although diagnosis can bring beneficial pharmacological treatment and social supports, diagnosis can also trigger negative social and psychological processes, as suggested by labeling theory. For children with mild behavioral problems, diagnosis may trigger awareness of being “different” for the first time, for example through negative teacher/peer effects. By matching diagnosed and otherwise comparable undiagnosed children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort of 1998, I find that medication has positive effects for diagnosed children with severe pre-diagnosis behavioral problems, yielding comparable future teacher-rated school behaviors as undiagnosed matches. However, diagnosed children with mild pre-diagnosis behavioral problems exhibit poorer future teacher-rated social and academic behaviors than their undiagnosed matches, consistent with labeling theory.

  • Social Class Differences in the Drivers of Childhood ADHD Diagnoses [Under Review]


With rising competition over admission to elite colleges and the increasing focus of elementary schools on the development of academic skills, a growing body of research documents a broad range of strategies employed by higher socioeconomic status (SES) families to promote their children’s educational success. These strategies include seeking accommodations, or exceptions to school rules that benefit their child. This study considers whether childhood diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of these accommodation-seeking strategies. Diagnosis may be desirable because it can grant children access to medications and accommodations (e.g., extra testing time) to address educational difficulties. Using within- and between-school regression analyses with the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort of 1998-99, the study first shows that family-based accommodation-seeking is an important contributor to ADHD diagnosis among children from higher SES families, but contributes less to diagnosis among children from lower SES families, even among higher and lower SES children attending the exact same schools. Instead, low-performing schools seek diagnosis for those disproportionately lower SES students who are most likely to help improve school-wide test score results. In many cases, these lower SES children are not those with the greatest educational difficulties. ADHD diagnoses thus serve to perpetuate intergenerational social advantages for some, while perpetuating barriers to educational opportunity for others, ultimately reproducing growing socioeconomic inequality.

  • Children Under Pressure: Socioeconomic Status, ADHD Diagnoses, and Future Social and Academic Behaviors [Under Review]


Amid the rise of intensive parenting, middle- and upper-socioeconomic status (SES) parents are more likely than lower-SES parents to turn to accommodation-seeking strategies such as childhood diagnosis of ADHD to promote children’s academic success at the first signs of behavioral and educational difficulties. Diagnosis often grants access to extra testing time and medications that improve attention and concentration. However, diagnosis can also lead children, including those in high academic pressure environments, to internalize messages that they are deficient, helpless, or that their parents do not believe they can meet high academic expectations. This study examines how these competing pros and cons of diagnosis balance out for diagnosed children’s future outcomes compared to similar undiagnosed children. This study also examines family social class and gender as potential moderators. Findings reveal an important case in which accommodation-seeking can have unintended consequences: diagnosis is associated with lower future perceived self-competence and poorer future social and academic behaviors. These poorer outcomes are located among diagnosed middle- and upper-SES but not lower-SES children, including those who had only mild pre-diagnosis behavioral problems, are similar across boys and girls, and persist even with receipt of medication.

  • Do Birds of a Feather Flock Together or Opposites Attract? Interviewer-Applicant Sex Similarity in Job Interviews (with Lauren Rivera) [Under Review]


A widely assumed but little tested theory of employment interviewing suggests that female job applicants will be evaluated more favorably when they are paired with female versus male interviewers. To capitalize on this hypothesized affinity, a number of organizations have begun explicitly pairing female job applicants with female interviewers, in hopes of increasing the interview ratings assigned to women. However, whether this practice actually results in more favorable interview evaluations for female job candidates remains an open empirical question. Using microlevel data on job interview evaluations from a large, professional service organization, we test the effect of matching job candidates with same- versus opposite-sex interviewers. Whereas interviewer sex matters little for men, it indeed matters for women but in unexpected ways. Matching women with female evaluators advantages women perceived to be low in stereotypically masculine skills, but significantly disadvantages women perceived to be high in stereotypically masculine skills. Consequently, we argue that sex homophily is a contextually dependent process, and hiring practices that strategically match job candidates and interviewers based on sex alone may have unintended consequences, especially for women in stereotypically masculine jobs and occupations.

  • Exclusionary Discipline: Race and Color Disparities in How Educators Evaluate and Punish Misbehavior [In Preparation]


School suspension and expulsion predict juvenile detention, educational attainment, earnings, incarceration, and recidivism. Suspension/expulsion impacts children’s development, contributing to cumulative disadvantages for students, families, and communities. Black students face more suspension/expulsion: 20% of Black boys are suspended, compared to 12% of Black girls, 9% of Hispanic boys, and 6% of White boys.
Neither higher incidence of infraction nor lesser responsiveness to restorative discipline practices (like tutoring or counseling) fully accounts for Black boys’ higher suspension/expulsion rates. Implicit bias offers a possible explanation: certain teachers might sanction Black boys more readily, and punitively, than White boys for identical, routine misbehavior. This compelling hypothesis has received scant empirical investigation.

This project uses a video experiment fielded with a diverse sample of teachers to: 1) precisely estimate magnitudes of bias in evaluations of identical misbehavior and in recommended sanctions, and; 2) tests an intervention to reduce bias. We deploy a video vignette experiment that manipulates the race/ethnicity and gender of students committing identical misbehavior. Teachers are randomly assigned to student and punitive or restorative school discipline environment. Teachers then view and rate videotaped misbehavior and report recommended sanction. This project quantifies teachers’ implicit bias; the social psychological mechanisms underlying disproportionate suspension/expulsion; and factors magnifying bias. Results will inform three promising strategies for reducing disparities in discipline, namely through identification of key points in the decision-making process where bias is most pronounced, alteration of school disciplinary decision-making protocol, and teacher-student demographic matching.

  • The Rise of Social Control and the Spatial Embedding of Racial Disparities in Child Behavior: The Intergenerational Effects of the Concentrated Rise in Arrests [In Preparation]
With the size of the incarcerated population having grown 500% since 1980 and with five times more Black than White men behind bars in 2015, researchers have documented the negative effects of paternal incarceration on the behavioral development of children, particularly sons. At the same time, another arm of scholars have documented the spatial concentration of disadvantage within particular communities of color and the implications of this concentration for barriers to social mobility. In this study, I bring together these two lines of research. Drawing on two cohorts of children across the U.S. born in the 1980s and 200s, and followed from birth to school entry, merged with data on county-level arrest rates in these time periods, I show that the concentrated rise in arrests within poor communities carries implications for the rise in behavior problems among Black, but not White, boys, as early as school entry. As arrest rates rose overall during the ‘tough on crime’ era, Black boys who lived in counties with the greatest increases in arrest disproportionately suffered, experiencing significantly larger increases in self-regulation problems and social problems than White boys living in the same counties by the time they entered school. In light of research showing that differences in behavioral development of this magnitude are associated with markedly lower academic achievement and higher delinquency in later childhood and adolescence, this increase in behavior problems sheds light on another facet of the spatial embedding of disadvantage brought about by the rise of ‘tough on crime’ policies and a turn toward punitive social control. Given that poor communities of color are more likely to be policed and that males of color are more likely to be criminalized, this work shows how the spatial concentration of heightened monitoring and arrests lead to the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage.

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