Study Finds Minority Students Benefit From Minority Instructors

September 06, 2011

Minority students in community colleges fare better academically if their instructors are of the same underrepresented minority groups, according to a working paper released this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

For students who are African-American, Latino, or Native American, taking a course with an instructor from the same group can cut in half the rate by which their academic performance lags behind their white peers in three key categories, as reported in "A Community-College Instructor Like Me: Race and Ethnicity Interactions in the Classroom."

Minority students who are taught by minority instructors are 2.9 percentage points less likely to drop a course, 2.8 percentage points more likely to pass that course, and 3.2 points more likely to score a B or better, the study found. The positive effects were strongest for young black students.

The report, by Robert Fairlie, Florian Hoffmann, and Philip Oreopoulos, who are economists at, respectively, the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Toronto, was based on data reflecting the experiences of about 30,000 students at De Anza Community College, near San Francisco.

The findings confirm in a more statistically nuanced fashion much of the conventional wisdom that has supported efforts to hire faculty members from groups that tend to be underrepresented in the professoriate.