Recent Research & Work-in-Progress

  • Double Jeopardy: Teacher Biases, Racialized Organizations, and the Production of Racial Disparities in School Discipline [American Sociological Review; Access the full text here]
Building on recent research that theorizes the presence of racialized organizations, this article uses empirical evidence to introduce the concept of “organizational bias” as another layer of discrimination in schools. Specifically, to understand the higher rates of school discipline that persist among Black and Latino boys net of differences in behavior, this study bridges the social psychology of individual bias with scholarship on racialized organizations. I combine an original video experiment involving 1,053 U.S. teachers with administrative data on school-level organizational context as measured by school racial and socioeconomic composition. Teachers view a randomly assigned video of a White, Black, or Latino boy committing identical, routine misbehavior and then are asked to report their impressions of and responses to the behavior. I find that, compared to White boys, Black and Latino boys face a double jeopardy. They experience (1) individual-level teacher bias, when a given Black or Latino boy is perceived as being more “blameworthy” than a White boy would be for identical misbehavior, and; (2) between-school organizational bias, in which biased perceptions of blameworthiness are greatest among teachers in poor minority schools versus advantaged White schools. Whereas most prior research examines bias at the individual teacher level, this study develops a more comprehensive understanding of the production of racial inequality in school discipline by identifying a dual process whereby teachers’ biased perceptions of the blameworthiness of Black and Latino boys operate at both the individual and organizational levels.
  • Seeing Behavior as Black, Brown, or White: Student Race/Ethnicity and Teachers’ Biased Perceptions of ‘Blameworthiness’ [Forthcoming, Social Psychology Quarterly]
Building on social psychological research on individual bias, this article uses the concept of “perceived blameworthiness” to investigate whether Black and Latino boys are perceived by teachers as being more culpable, or “blameworthy,” than White boys for objectively identical, routine classroom misbehavior at school. To isolate teacher bias from true differences in behavior, I use an original video experiment involving 1,339 teachers in 295 U.S. schools. Teachers in the experiment are randomly assigned to view and respond to a video of a White, Black, or Latino boy committing identical misbehavior. I find that Black boys experience teacher blaming bias, where they are perceived as being more “blameworthy” than White boys for identical misbehavior. Results for Latino boys are directionally similar to those for Black boys but do not reach statistical significance. Findings have implications for racialized assessments of behavior across a range of evaluative contexts.
  • Parental Intervention at School, Academic Pressure, and Childhood Diagnoses of ADHD [2021, Social Science & Medicine]
Childhood diagnoses of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have increased dramatically in the U.S. in recent decades. Prior research has alluded to the possibility that high levels of parental intervention in school are associated with increased diagnoses of ADHD, but this relationship remains understudied. This study investigates: 1) whether the children of intervening parents are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, and; 2) whether parental intervention moderates the extent to which children’s pre-diagnosis behavioral problems and exposure to strict educational accountability policies predict ADHD diagnosis. Analyses of longitudinal, population-level data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort of 1998-99 (n=9,820) reveal that a standard deviation increase above the mean on parental intervention in school is associated with a 20% increase in the odds of ADHD diagnosis among elementary school children. This relationship is robust to differences in children’s pre-diagnosis behavioral problems, academic achievement, parental knowledge of/exposure to ADHD, and school selection, and can arise because parents who intervene in school on average exhibit heightened sensitivity to behavioral problems and academic pressure from accountability-based educational policies. In light of prior work establishing both social class and racial/ethnic differences in parental intervention in school, this positive relationship between parental intervention in school and children’s diagnoses of ADHD may carry important implications for the production of inequality in children’s mental health and educational opportunities.
  • Glass Floors and Glass Ceilings: Interviewer-Applicant Sex Similarity in Job Interviews (with Lauren Rivera) [2021, Social Forces]
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.

  • Social Class, ADHD Diagnoses, and Child Well-Being [2020, Journal of Health and Social Behavior 61(2): 134-152 (Lead Article)]

ADHD is the most commonly-diagnosed disability among U.S. children. Diagnosis can bring positives, like proper treatment, extra testing time, and social support, but may also trigger negatives, like stigmatization. While rates of diagnosis are comparable across socioeconomic status (SES) groups, the balance of positive and negative consequences of diagnosis may differ by SES. In high-SES communities, mental health diagnoses are less stigmatized and parents have greater ability to connect a child to support resources early on, suggesting greater positive effects of diagnosis for high-SES children. Alternatively, the greater academic pressure present in high-SES communities may amplify the negative effects of mental health stigma, suggesting larger negative diagnostic effects. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort of 1998-99, I find that diagnosed and medicated high-SES but not low-SES children exhibit significantly poorer future self-competence and teacher-rated school behaviors than undiagnosed matches, suggesting that diagnostic effects may not always be net positive.

  • Relationships Between an ADHD Diagnosis and Future School Behaviors among Children with Mild Behavioral Problems [2020, Sociology of Education 93(3): 191-214 (Lead Article)]

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.
  • Unpacking the Drivers of Racial Disparities in School Suspension and Expulsion (with Sara McLanahan) [2019[2020 in print], Social Forces 98(4): 1548-1577]

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. 

  • Social Class, ADHD Diagnoses, and the Future Well-being of Children with Mild Pre-Diagnosis Behavioral Problems [2nd Revise & Resubmit, Society and Mental Health]

ADHD is today’s most commonly-diagnosed childhood mental health disorder. When it comes to children’s future school behaviors and perceived self-competence, it is widely assumed that the positives associated with diagnosis, like proper treatment, outweigh the negatives, like stigmatization. However, prior research using data from 1998-2003 finds net negative diagnostic effects, but only among socioeconomically advantaged children. Whether—and under what conditions—this negative marginal diagnostic effect persists today remains understudied. Increasing diagnoses in recent decades both among children with severe and mild behavioral problems may have eliminated negatives, like stigma. Using updated data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort: 2010-11 (ECLS-K:2010-11), I uncover persistent negative diagnostic effects only among advantaged children, including those receiving medication. Effects are concentrated among advantaged children with only mild pre-diagnosis ADHD-related behaviors. These children do not experience greater diagnosis, but diagnosis has the greatest negative effects on them. Findings carry important implications for child well-being and the intergenerational transmission of privilege.

  • 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 2000s, 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.