Academic journal article Family Relations

The Impact of Community Diversity and Consolidated Inequality on Dropping out of High School

Academic journal article Family Relations

The Impact of Community Diversity and Consolidated Inequality on Dropping out of High School

Article excerpt

Abstract:

Data from the National Education Longitudinal Study were combined with census data at the zip code level to examine the impact of neighborhood racial and ethnic diversity and consolidated inequality, in addition to individual, family, and school factors, on the likelihood of dropping out of high school. Results indicate that while the effects for diversity and consolidated inequality did not support the stated hypotheses, main effects for family risk and prior academic achievement were significant and in the stated direction. Also, when controlling for individual, family, school, and neighborhood characteristics, African Americans were less likely than White students to drop out of school. Implications for contextual effects research and educational outcomes are discussed.

Key Words: community, consolidated inequality, context, diversity, dropout, multilevel.

Inductively, we know that youngsters' schooling outcomes depend on their social contexts-the neighborhoods in which they live-as well as their school contexts, but social science methods have struggled to capture these effects. This investigation seeks to take into account both community and school contextual effects through the use of hierarchical linear modeling procedures that incorporate various theoretically justified constructs into the study of dropping out of school. Specifically, data from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) were utilized to examine the impact of neighborhood diversity and consolidated inequality, in addition to individual, family, and school factors, on the likelihood of dropping out of high school. The relevance of studying the relationship between contextual effects and educational outcomes cannot be overstated, especially because youngsters grow up in such dramatically different communities, some very poor and some very affluent, some very segregated and some that are highly integrated.

Context

The overall dropout rate defined as 16- to 24-year-olds who, regardless of when they left school, have not completed high school or a general educational development (GED) program, has decreased from approximately 15% in 1971 to approximately 11% in 1999 (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2000). However, these overall percentages mask important racial/ethnic group differences. In 1999, 31% and 26% of Hispanic men and women, respectively, were considered dropouts, whereas 13% of both African American men and women were similarly classified. In contrast, 7% of both White men and women were identified as dropouts (NCES, 2000).

Though dropout rates have decreased for Hispanics, African Americans, and Whites of both sexes, concern still exists about not only the magnitude of the rates but also about the differential manner in which minority students are overrepresented in dropout rates (Orfield, Losen, WaId, & Swanson, 2004; Reyes, Gillock, Kobus, & Sanchez, 2000). Further, minority students, specifically African American and Hispanic students, are likely to drop out of school earlier than White or Asian students (Reyes et al.). This places an additional hardship on these students, as there are long-term benefits for every year of school completed (Cappella & Weinstein, 2001).

Conceptualization

Research into dropping out can be categorized into one of three areas: dropout, pullout, or pushout (Nielsen, 1986). Research that utilizes a dropout perspective places explanatory emphasis on students' individual attributes. Pullout theories, on the other hand, assume that students engage in an economic cost-benefit analysis when considering whether to stay in school. Pushout theories, which provide the theoretical framework for this article, focus on school and community contexts.

In the present investigation, we consider two primary dimensions of community context: diversity and consolidated inequity. We also consider these two macrolevel influences in the context of putative family, individual, and school factors as guided by a risk and protective factor framework. …

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