Uprooting Children: Mobility, Social Capital, and Mexican American Underachievement

Uprooting Children: Mobility, Social Capital, and Mexican American Underachievement

Uprooting Children: Mobility, Social Capital, and Mexican American Underachievement

Uprooting Children: Mobility, Social Capital, and Mexican American Underachievement

Synopsis

A critical issue facing U. S. schools is the persistent disparity in achievement between racial/ethnic groups. The achievement gap is particularly pronounced for Mexican-Americans. By employing mixed-methods research techniques, Ream links emergent literature on social capital with research on student mobility to investigate student performance among Mexican-American and non-Latino White adolescents. Findings underscore the prevalence of student mobility, particularly among Mexican-origin youth, and its impingement on both the availability and convertibility of the resources embedded in their social networks. Results also suggest that minority and non-minority students fortify social ties in different ways, and that these differences have implications for the educational utility of social capital.

Excerpt

The study of Latinos can only begin by charting unsuspected
encounters, with full awareness that the task is bound to find
unsuspected mirrors bound to reflect the researcher's
unguarded gaze
.

— Roman de la Campa, Latinos and the Crossover Aesthetic

Among the wide-ranging challenges facing American educators and the divergent theories and methods we employ to redress inadequacies in our educational system, perhaps no other issue is more pressing than the disparity in educational achievement among racial/ethnic groups. However it is measured, whether by school grades, standardized test scores, course selection, or high school and college completion rates, the fact that there is a persistent history of group-level achievement differences in American education is not debatable. Nevertheless, the reasons we give for this problem—as well as the theoretical presuppositions and research techniques on which many past explanations have been premised—can be strongly contested. This was dramatically illustrated by the explosive reaction to publication of Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve (1994), which by linking genetic characteristics to group achievement differences marked the troubling re-emergence of a line of research most scholars in the field thought was obsolete. Herrnstein and Murray's thesis has been largely discredited by other works (Jencks, et al., 1972; Bowles & Gintis, 1972; Thompson, Detterman, & Plomin, 1991; Valencia & Solorzano, 1997; Jencks & Phillips, 1998) and debunked by “anti-essentialist” arguments (Loury, 2002), all of which leave little doubt that so-called innate differences between “races” are actually the shameful product of a long history of discriminatory political and cultural practices, as well as continued ethnocentric biases in the contemporary political and economic structures of American society (Du Bois, 1903; Wilson, 1987; Massey & Eggers, 1990; Kozol, 1992; Menchaca, 1995; Vernez & Abrahamse, 1996; Trueba, 1999; Valencia, 2002; Villenas & Foley, 2002; National Research Council, 2004). It is precisely because some . . .

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