Experimental Effects of “Achievement Gap” News Reporting on Viewers’ Racial Stereotypes, Inequality Explanations, and Inequality Prioritization

Published Online in:
Educational Researcher
June 8, 2020

David M. Quinn, University of Southern California

The “achievement gap” has long dominated mainstream conversations about race and education. Some scholars warn that the discourse around racial gaps perpetuates stereotypes and promotes the adoption of deficit-based explanations that fail to appreciate the role of structural inequities. I investigate through three randomized experiments. Results indicate that a TV news story about racial achievement gaps (vs. a control or counterstereotypical video) led viewers to express more exaggerated stereotypes of Black Americans as lacking education (Study 1 effect size = .30 SD; Study 2 effect size = .38 SD) and may have increased viewers’ implicit stereotyping of Black students as less competent than White students (Study 1 effect size = .22 SD; Study 2 effect size = .12 SD, ns). The video did not affect viewers’ explicit competence-related racial stereotyping, the explanations they gave for achievement inequalities, or their prioritization of ending achievement inequalities. After 2 weeks, the effect on stereotype exaggeration faded. Future research should probe how we can most productively frame educational inequality by race.

Read the full open-access article online here

Read the press release: "Study: News Reports of Education 'Achievement Gaps' May Perpetuate Stereotypes of Black Americans.