Study: The stress of racism negatively impacts learning.

By Andrew Pillow

It is a well-known fact that students from minority backgrounds face additional obstacles when it comes to achievement. Financial and resource gaps have always been cited as principal reasons that students of color fall behind. It may be time to add “general stress of being a minority” to that list as well.

According to a study out of Northwestern University, the stress of racial discrimination also plays a part in the persistence of gaps in academic performance. Essentially the knowledge of how Black and Latino students are perceived weigh on them in an unhealthy way.

The body attempts to compensate, but it doesn’t compensate well, as explained by The Atlantic:

“The team of researchers found that the physiological response to race-based stressors—be it perceived racial prejudice, or the drive to outperform negative stereotypes—leads the body to pump out more stress hormones in adolescents from traditionally marginalized groups. This biological reaction to race-based stress is compounded by the psychological response to discrimination or the coping mechanisms youngsters develop to lessen the distress. What emerges is a picture of black and Latino students whose concentration, motivation, and, ultimately, learning is impaired by unintended and overt racism.”

Read more here.

See the study and abstract here.


Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.