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The Neighborhood-School Spill-Over: Middle and High School Students' Perceptions of Racial/Ethnic Discrimination at the Neighborhood and School Level

  • Author(s): Quinones, Feliz
  • Advisor(s): Graham, Sandra H
  • et al.
Abstract

While there is a well-established body of literature that documents the role of the school context in informing adolescents’ perceptions of unfair treatment at school, little research investigates how interactions at the neighborhood level also shape adolescents’ perceptions of school-based peer and adult racial/ethnic discrimination. The current dissertation focused on examining the Neighborhood–School Spill-Over, a novel framework, encompassing three different, but interrelated approaches for understanding the role of the neighborhood context in informing Latina/o students’ perceptions of school-based adult and peer racial/ethnic discrimination. Dissertation Study #1 (Approach 1 of the Neighborhood–School Spill-Over framework) aimed to examine whether distance (how far students lived from school in miles) moderated the relationship between neighborhood and school Latina/o representation and students’ perceptions of unfair treatment by adults and peers at school. It was hypothesized that Latina/o students living further away from school would report lower perceptions of unfair treatment by both peers and adults at school if they lived in neighborhoods with a high concentration of Latina/os, even when there was lower Latina/o representation at school. Dissertation Study #2 (Approach 2 of the Neighborhood–School Spill-Over framework) aimed to examine whether the percentage of students who live in the same neighborhood and go to the same school, percentage of same-ethnic neighborhood peers, informed adolescents’ perceptions around unfair treatment by adults at school. The proposed hypothesis was that having a greater percentage of same-ethnic peers who live in the same community and attend the same school context would be protective. The overarching goal of Dissertation Study #3 (Approach 3 of the Neighborhood–School Spill-Over framework) was to examine how perceptions of neighborhood discrimination (i.e., by police and store clerks) affected Latina/o students’ perceptions of school adult racial/ethnic discrimination and whether neighborhood collective efficacy, feeling like people in the community “have your back,” was protective. It was anticipated that while perceiving greater discrimination in the neighborhood would predict higher perceptions of unfair treatment by adults at school, living in efficacious neighborhoods would buffer this relationship.

Data for this dissertation came from the UCLA Middle and High School Diversity Project (MSDP/HSDP), a larger ongoing longitudinal study that sought to examine the benefits and challenges of ethnic diversity in urban middle schools. MSDP/HSDP participants were 5,991 racially/ethnically diverse students who were recruited from 26 urban middle schools in northern and southern California who then transitioned into over 440 high schools all over the state of California. To conduct analyses for these three dissertation studies, students’ home addresses were geocoded and cross-classified multilevel models were run.

Findings from Dissertation Study #1 showed that as Latina/o eighth-grade students (n = 756) attended schools with fewer same-ethnic peers, living further away was protective against perceptions of peer racial/ethnic discrimination, when there was high Latina/o representation in the neighborhood context. Findings from Dissertation Study #2 found that as Latina/o representation at school decreased, Latina/o eighth-grade students (n = 856) reported higher perceptions of school adult racial/ethnic discrimination, and this was particularly more pronounced for students with a lower percentage of same-ethnic neighborhood peers. As Latina/o representation at school decreased, students reported lower perceptions of discrimination by adults at school when they had a greater percentage of same-ethnic neighborhood peers, highlighting the protective nature of same-ethnic neighborhood peers. And finally, findings from Dissertation Study #3 found that high school students (10th-grade Latina/o students; n = 540) reported higher perceptions of unfair treatment by adults at school when they reported higher perceptions of neighborhood discrimination. While findings from Dissertation Study #3 did not find that efficacious neighborhoods buffered students’ perceptions of discrimination by adults at school, future research should continue to examine the neighborhood-school spill over to thoroughly unpack the neighborhood characteristics that serve as risk and protective factors for adolescents of color, specifically in marginalized communities. The larger implications of this dissertation research are to go beyond understanding the barriers that exist in the neighborhood context and to center the benefits and wealth that exist in marginalized communities for adolescents of color as a way of creating more welcoming school environments.

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