Sensitivity to Race-Based Rejection and African-American Students' College Experience

Awarded Scholars:
Geraldine Downey, Columbia University
Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, Columbia University
Project Date:
Nov 2001
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Cultural Contact

As American society becomes increasingly diverse, the nation’s continued success is contingent upon tapping the potential of all Americans. Recent studies have documented that black college students at selective universities typically receive lower grades and are less likely to graduate or to pursue post-graduate studies than are similarly qualified white students. A growing number of scholars believes that simply achieving numerical diversity isn’t enough and that creating a sense of trust among minority groups on campus is of paramount importance. Geraldine Downey and Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton of Columbia University hypothesize that traditionally marginalized groups may underperform because they do not feel accepted at universities. Their goal is to test a model proposing that direct or vicarious experiences of exclusion, discrimination, and prejudice can lead African-American students to develop a sensitivity to race-based rejection (RS-race), which will negatively impact their social identity and compromise their academic performance and the quality of their college experience. They will also examine techniques that individuals and institutions can use to help mitigate these negative consequences. Downey and Mendoza-Denton are also planning to explore whether the RS-race construct applies cross-culturally to other historically marginalized groups, such as mainland Chinese students in Hong Kong. The researchers will publish their findings in academic journals and in edited volumes.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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