Nav: Home

Study examines what drives student involvement in racial justice movements

October 13, 2016

A new study from North Carolina State University, the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan finds that women college students are more active than men in racial justice movements - and that what drives Black students to engage is different from what drives Latino students. The finding not only sheds light on how students support social action - but what higher education can do to support its students.

"We wanted to know how active Black and Latino undergraduates are in regard to advocacy for racial justice," says Elan Hope, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the work. "And we wanted to know what factors predict that advocacy."

The researchers did this by focusing on two specific movements: the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and advocacy for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation.

The BLM movement began in 2013 in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin and gained momentum following the shooting of Michael Brown Jr. and the deaths of Renisha McBride, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald and others. The DACA movement seeks legislative change to address obstacles faced by immigrant youth. It gained momentum in 2010 with anti-deportation campaigns led by undocumented activists who sought citizenship for undocumented people born abroad but raised primarily in the United States.

For this study, the researchers surveyed 533 undergraduates at five universities - 221 Black students and 312 Latino students. Seventy-five percent of the Black students were women; 57 percent of the Latino students were women.

Study participants were asked whether they had been involved in the BLM and DACA movements, whether online, offline or both. Participants were also asked about their experiences with racial microaggressions, such as being singled out by police due to race or having experiences where people assumed every person of their race was alike.

Across all groups, the students were more likely to have been involved in the BLM movement than in DACA, and women were more likely to be active than men. Sixty-eight percent of Black women were active in BLM, compared to 54 percent of Black men. Meanwhile, 37 percent of Latina women were active in BLM, compared to 17 percent of Latino men.

But the factors that predicted each group's involvement varied significantly.

For Black students, the primary predictor was whether they had previous experience with political activism - the more political activism experience they had, the more likely they were to participate in BLM. For Latino students, those who had experienced more racial microaggressions were more likely to be active in the BLM movement.

Latina women were the most active undergraduate group in the DACA movement, with 26 percent participating, compared to 10 percent of Latino men. Meanwhile, 21 percent of Black women were involved in DACA, compared to 17 percent of Black men.

Racial microaggressions again played a significant role, with Latino students who experienced more microaggressions being more likely to be involved in the DACA movement. In addition, Latino students who felt they had the power to effect political change were more likely to be active in DACA.

For Black students, previous political activism also predicted involvement in the DACA movement. But DACA participation was also closely tied to whether a Black student was a first-generation U.S. citizen, with first-generation students being more likely to get involved.

"This study gives us some insight into what is happening now - how these movements are shaping, and being shaped by, college students," Hope says. "But there is also a message here for higher education broadly.

"Most university mission statements address public service, civic engagement and diversity," Hope says. "This work highlights that undergraduate populations want to be involved in efforts to positively influence social change.

"This will, hopefully, tell school administrators that it makes sense to support their students - and their mission statements - by offering a variety of courses with a social justice focus, and providing workshops that teach best practices for race/ethnicity-related activism," Hope says.
The paper, "Participation in Black Lives Matter & Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: Modern Activism among Black & Latino College Students," is published in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. The paper was co-authored by Micere Keels of the University of Chicago and Myles Durkee of the University of Michigan. The work was supported by the William T. Grant Foundation under grant number 180804.

North Carolina State University

Related Higher Education Articles:

Online education platforms could scale high-quality STEM education for universities
Online and blended (online and in-person) STEM instruction can produce the same learning outcomes for students as traditional, in-person classes at a fraction of the cost, finds research published today in Science Advances.
Technology in higher education: learning with it instead of from it
Technology has shifted the way that professors teach students in higher education.
Schools less important than parents in determining higher education aspirations
A new study shows that the elementary school a child attends has almost no influence on their desire to progress to higher education -- as factors including parental aspirations, academic support from their mother and having a desk to work on are much more important.
Higher education holds key to more age-friendly society, publication says
The age-friendly movement is an ideal means of embracing demographic shifts in higher education and society at large, according to the latest issue in the What's Hot newsletter series from The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), titled 'Higher Education and Aging: The Age-Friendly Movement -- Building a Case for Age Inclusivity.' Support for the publication was provided by AARP.
In blacks with Alzheimer's gene, higher education may be protective
A new study from Columbia University found that a higher level of education protected against cognitive decline in black people with a gene linked to Alzheimer's disease.
WVU study reveals falsification issues in higher education hiring processes
When concerns are expressed about distrust in science, they often focus on whether the public trusts research findings.
Job sharing can boost number of women in senior higher education roles
Research from Lancaster University Management School, shows job sharing offers a route to increase the number of women in senior leadership roles in higher education.
Buying local? Higher price means higher quality in consumers' minds
Why are we willing to pay much more for a six pack of craft beer, a locally produced bottle of wine or a regional brand item, often choosing them over national brands?
Few US higher education campuses have gone completely smoke and/or tobacco-free
Just one in six accredited US colleges and universities have gone completely smoke and/or tobacco free, reveals the first study of its kind, published in the journal Tobacco Control.
Higher lifetime risk of sudden cardiac death among African Americans may be associated with income and education disparities
African Americans have a much higher lifetime risk of sudden cardiac death than whites, especially among women.
More Higher Education News and Higher Education Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at