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New Project Forum report on Principal Preparedness to Support Diverse Learners

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Journal Article: Social status and the academic achievement gap: A social dominance perspective

Journal Article » Social status and the academic achievement gap: A social dominance perspective


Academic Achievement, Dominance, Social Behavior, Status, Theories


Van Laar, Colette; Sidanius, Jim




In this paper the authors sketch several mechanisms by which low social status is transformed into low academic performance. Using the perspective of social dominance theory, the authors review 3 processes by which this transformation takes place. These processes include (1) the effects of lower economic, cultural, and social capital; (2) the effects of personal and institutional discrimination; and (3) reactions to low social status by members of low status groups. It is argued that members of low status groups engage in various protective mechanisms in response to their low social status. Although these mechanisms have the benefit of protecting self-esteem, this benefit is purchased at a potential cost. This cost includes reduced motivation to succeed which results in lower academic achievement and subsequent reinforcement of the status hierarchy. The authors argue that future research needs to place substantially more effort into precisely understanding the numerous, and often subtle, mediating mechanisms transforming low social status into low academic achievement. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA )