Stereotype Threat and Antidiscrimination Law: Affirmative Steps to Promote Meritocracy and Racial Equality in Education – Article by Sam Erman & Gregory M. Walton

From Volume 88, Number 2 (January 2015)

A new generation of social science research creates new opportunities to increase fairness and reduce racial inequality in education. This research raises important questions for antidiscrimination law.

Over the past twenty years, research conducted around the world has established that for students subject to pervasive negative intellectual stereotypes, such as African American and Latino students (and many other groups, including, in math and science, girls and women), school contexts that call to mind these stereotypes can produce distraction and anxiety that impede school achievement and contribute to racial disparities. This “stereotype threat” is the default in evaluative, challenging academic environments. Hence, common measures of intellectual ability typically underestimate minority students’ potential. But stereotype threat is not inevitable. Brief exercises can reduce its effects, causing lasting improvements in minority student achievement.