Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-544b6db54f-6mft8 Total loading time: 0.286 Render date: 2021-10-17T13:59:39.123Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }


The Academic Performance of Black Student Populations at Elite Colleges1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 December 2014

W. Carson Byrd*
Department of Pan-African Studies, University of Louisville
Rachelle J. Brunn-Bevel
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Fairfield University
Parker R. Sexton
Mathematica Policy Research
*Corresponding author: W. Carson Byrd, University of Louisville, Department of Pan-African Studies, Strickler Hall, Room 438, Louisville, KY 40292; email:


The examination of student group performance is a constant need as American higher education continues to expand and become more racially and ethnically diverse. Recent scholarship on the academic performance of Black students at elite colleges and universities has glossed over possible disparities among these students, particularly among different immigrant groups. The current study clarifies these differences in academic performance by examining four Black student groups at elite colleges and universities in the United States: native Blacks, Black immigrants from Africa, Black immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America, and Black immigrants from other parts of the globe. The analyses point to many similarities and differences among the four Black student groups in their characteristics and influences on their academic performance in college such as gender, precollege friendships, high school academic preparation, college major, and closeness to Whites and Blacks. Additionally, this study found evidence of possible colorism among Black students at elite colleges.

State of the Art
Copyright © Hutchins Center for African and African American Research 2014 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ainsworth-Darnell, James W. and Downey, Douglas B. (1998). Assessing the Oppositional Culture Explanation for Racial/Ethnic Differences in School Performance. American Sociological Review, 63(4): 536553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bennett, Pamela R. and Lutz, Amy (2009). How African American is the Net Black Advantage? Differences in College Attendance among Immigrant Blacks, Native Blacks, and Whites. Sociology of Education, 82(1): 70100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo (2010). Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo and Dietrich, David R. (2009). The Latin Americanization of U.S. Race Relations: A New Pigmentocracy. In Glenn, Evelyn N. (Ed.), Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, pp. 4060. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Bowen, William G. and Bok, Derek (1998). The Shape of the River: The Long Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bowen, William G., Kurzweil, Martin A., and Tobin, Eugene M. (2005). Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press.Google Scholar
Charles, Camille Z., Dinwiddie, Gniesha, and Massey, Douglas S. (2004). The Continuing Consequences of Segregation. Social Science Quarterly, 85(5): 13531373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Charles, Camille Z., Fischer, Mary J., Mooney, Margarita A., and Massey, Douglas S. (2009). Taming the River: Negotiating the Academic, Financial, and Social Currents in Selective Colleges and Universities. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Charles, Camille Z., Torres, Kimberly C., and Brunn, Rachelle J. (2008). Black Like Who? Exploring the Racial, Ethnic, and Class Diversity of Black Students at Selective Colleges and Universities. In Gallagher, Charles A. (Ed.), Racism in Post-Race America: New Theories, New Directions, pp. 247266. Chapel Hill, NC: Social Forces.Google Scholar
Chou, Rosalind S. and Feagin, Joe R. (2008). The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism. Boulder, CO: Paradigm.Google Scholar
Deaux, Kay, Bikmen, Nida, Gilkes, Alwyn, Ventuneac, Ana, Joseph, Yvanne, Payne, Yasser A., and Steele, Claude M. (2007). Becoming American: Stereotype Threat Effects in Afro-Caribbean Immigrant Groups. Social Psychology Quarterly, 70(4): 384404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Downey, Douglas B. (2008). Black/White Differences in School Performance: The Oppositional Culture Explanation. Annual Review of Sociology, 34: 107126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Du Bois, W. E. B. (2011 [1903]). The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Tribeca.Google Scholar
Duncan, Terry E., Duncan, Susan C., and Lu, Fuzhong (1998). A Comparison of Model- and Multiple Imputation-Based Approaches to Longitudinal Data with Partial Missingness. Structural Equation Modeling, 5(1): 121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Enders, Craig K. (2001). A Primer on Maximum Likelihood Algorithms Available for Use with Missing Data. Structural Equation Modeling, 8(1): 128141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Essed, Philomena (1991). Understanding Everyday Racism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
Everett, Bethany G., Rogers, Richard G., Hummer, Robert A., and Krueger, Patrick M. (2011). Trends in Educational Attainment by Race/ethnicity, Nativity, and Sex in the United States, 1989–2005. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 34(9): 15431566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Feagin, Joe R. (1991). The Continuing Significance of Race: AntiBlack Discrimination in Public Places. American Sociological Review, 56(1): 101116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Feagin, Joe R. (2010). Racist America: Roots, Current Realities and Future Reparations. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Feagin, Joe R., Vera, Hernan, and Imani, Nikitah (1996). The Agony of Education: Black Students at White Colleges and Universities. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Feliciano, Cynthia (2005). Educational Selectivity in U.S. Immigration: How Do Immigrant Groups Compare to Those Left Behind? Demography, 42(1): 131152.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fordham, Signithia and Ogbu, John U. (1986). Black Students’ School Success: Coping with the Burden of “Acting White.” Urban Review, 18(3): 176206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Glenn, Evelyn N. (Ed.) (2009). Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Golash-Boza, Tanya and Darity, William Jr. (2008). Latino Racial Choices: The Effects of Skin Colour and Discrimination on Latinos’ and Latinas’ Racial Self-identification. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 31(5): 899934.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hagy, Allison P. and Staniec, J. Farley Ordovensky (2002). Immigrant Status, Race, and Institutional Choice in Higher Education. Economics of Education Review, 21(4): 381392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Halter, Marilyn (2007). Africa: West. In Shaw-Taylor, Yoku and Tuch, Steven A. (Eds.), The Other African Americans: Contemporary African and Caribbean Immigrants in the United States, pp. 283294. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
Harris, Angel (2011). Kids Don’t Want to Fail: Oppositional Culture and Black Students’ Academic Achievement. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Herring, Cedric, Keith, Verna M., and Horton, Haward Derrick (Eds.) (2004). Skin/Deep: How Race and Complexion Matter in the “Color-Blind” Era. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
Hirschman, Charles (2001). The Educational Enrollment of Immigrant Youth: A Test of the Segmented-Assimilation Hypothesis. Demography, 38(3): 317336.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hughes, Michael and Hertel, Bradley R. (1990). The Significance of Color Remains: A Study of Life Chances, Mate Selection, and Ethnic Consciousness among Black Americans. Social Forces, 68(4): 11051120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jöreskog, Karl G. and Sörbom, Dag (2007). LISREL 8.8. Chicago, IL: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
Kao, Grace and Tienda, Marta (1995). Optimism and Achievement: The Educational Performance of Immigrant Youth. Social Science Quarterly, 76(1): 119.Google Scholar
Karabel, Jerome (2005). The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.Google Scholar
Kozol, Jonathan (1992). Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. New York: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
Kozol, Jonathan (2005). The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. New York: Crown Publishers.Google Scholar
Lee, Jennifer and Bean, Frank D. (2010). The Diversity Paradox: Immigration and the Color Line in the Twenty-first Century America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Logan, John R. (2007). Who are the Other African Americans? Contemporary African and Caribbean Immigrants in the United States. In Shaw-Taylor, Yoku and Tuch, Steven A. (Eds.), The Other African Americans: Contemporary African and Caribbean Immigrants in the United States, pp. 4967. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
Massey, Douglas S., Charles, Camille Z., Lundy, Garvey F., and Fischer, Mary J. (2003). The Source of the River: The Social Origins of Freshmen at America’s Selective Colleges and Universities. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Massey, Douglas S., Mooney, Margarita, Torres, Kimberly C., and Charles, Camille Z. (2007). Black Immigrants and Black Natives Attending Selective Colleges and Universities in the United States. American Journal of Education, 113(2): 243271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Model, Suzanne (2008). The Secret of West Indian Success. Society, 45(6): 544548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mooney, Margarita (2009): Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Mueller, Jennifer C., Dirks, Danielle, and Picca, Leslie Houts (2007). Unmasking Racism: Halloween Costuming and Engagement of the Racial Order. Qualitative Sociology, 30(3): 315335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
National Center for Education Statistics, U. S. Department of Education (2007). Digest of Education Statistics, 2007. Washington, DC: Author.
O’Brien, Eileen (2008). The Racial Middle: Latinos and Asian Americans Living Beyond the Racial Divide. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
O’Connor, Carla, Lewis, Amanda, and Mueller, Jennifer (2007). Researching ‘Black’ Educational Experiences and Outcomes: Theoretical and Methodological Considerations. Educational Researcher, 36(9): 541552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ogbu, John U. (2004). Collective Identity and the Burden of “Acting White” in Black History, Community and Education. Urban Review, 36(1): 135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Orfield, Gary and Lee, Chungmei (2007). Historic Reversals, Accelerating Resegregation, and the Need for New Integration Strategies. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles.Google Scholar
Picca, Leslie H. and Feagin, Joe R. (2007). Two-Faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Prashad, Vijay (2001). Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
Raleigh, Elizabeth and Kao, Grace (2010). Do Immigrant Minority Parents Have More Consistent College Aspirations for their Children? Social Science Quarterly, 91(4): 10831102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rimer, Sarah and Arenson, Karen W. (2004). Top Colleges Take More Blacks, but which Ones? New York Times, June 24. <> (Accessed May 24, 2013).Google Scholar
Shelton, J. Nicole, Richeson, Jennifer A., and Salvatore, Jessica (2005). Expecting to be the Target of Prejudice: Implications for Interethnic Interactions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31(9): 11891202.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Smedley, Audrey (2007). Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview. Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
Soares, Joseph A. (2007). The Power of Privilege: Yale and America’s College Elite. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Steele, Claude M. (1997). A Threat in the Air: How Stereotypes Shape Intellectual Identity and Performance. American Psychologist, 52(6): 613629.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Steele, Claude M. (2010). Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.Google Scholar
Steele, Claude M. and Aronson, Joshua (1995). Stereotype Threat and Intellectual Test Performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(5): 797811.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Steinberg, Stephen (2007). Race Relations: A Critique. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Telles, Edward E. (2004). Race in Another America: The Significance of Skin Color in Brazil. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Thelin, John R. (2004). A History of American Higher Education. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
Torres, Kimberley C. and Charles, Camille Z. (2004). Metastereotypes and the Black-White Divide: A Qualitative View of Race on an Elite College Campus. Du Bois Review, 1(1): 115149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tyson, Karolyn (2011). Integration Interrupted: Tracking, Black Students, and Acting White After Brown. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Ausdale, Debra and Feagin, Joe R. (2001). The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism. Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield.Google Scholar
Waters, Mary C. (1999). Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Wise, Tim (2008a). Majoring in Minstrelsy: White Students, Blackface, and the Failure of Mainstream Multiculturalism. In Wise, Tim (Ed.), Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male, pp. 6371. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skulls Press.Google Scholar
Wise, Tim (2008b). Racism, Free Speech, and the College Campus. In Wise, Tim (Ed.), Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male, pp. 165174. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skulls Press.Google Scholar
Zuberi, Tukufu (2001). Thicker than Blood: How Racial Statistics Lie. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *