An empirical analysis of 'acting white'
Using a newly available data set, which allows one to construct a novel measure of a student's social status, we demonstrate that there are potentially important racial differences in the relationship between social status and academic achievement. The effect is concentrated among students with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or higher and more pronounced in schools with more interracial contact. Earlier studies showing a positive relationship between popularity and academic achievement for blacks are sensitive to the inclusion of more continuous achievement measures. We argue that the data are most consistent with a model of 'acting white' in which investments in education are taken as a signal of one's opportunity costs of peer-group loyalty, though imprecise estimates make definitive conclusions difficult.
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