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Weighing the “burden of 'acting white'”: Are there race differences in attitudes toward education?


  • Philip J. Cook

    (Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Duke University, 4875 Duke Station, Durham, NC 27706)

  • Jens Ludwig

    (Department of Public Policy, Graduate Public Policy Program, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057)


Recent reports by ethnographic researchers and media sources suggest that many African American students view academic success as a form of “acting white,” and that peer pressure reduces their level of effort and performance. This article analyzes the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 to answer three questions: (1) do blacks experience greater alienation toward school than non-Hispanic whites?; (2) do blacks incur social penalties from their peers for succeeding academically?; and (3) if so, are these “achievement penalties” greater than those for whites? Our analysis suggests the answer to each of the three questions is “apparently not.”

Suggested Citation

  • Philip J. Cook & Jens Ludwig, 1997. "Weighing the “burden of 'acting white'”: Are there race differences in attitudes toward education?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(2), pages 256-278.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:16:y:1997:i:2:p:256-278 DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1520-6688(199721)16:2<256::AID-PAM4>3.0.CO;2-H

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mark C. Berger, 1988. "Predicted Future Earnings and Choice of College Major," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 41(3), pages 418-429, April.
    2. Altonji, Joseph G, 1993. "The Demand for and Return to Education When Education Outcomes Are Uncertain," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages 48-83, January.
    3. Hanushek, Eric A, 1986. "The Economics of Schooling: Production and Efficiency in Public Schools," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 1141-1177, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Philippe, Arnaud, 2017. "Incarcerate one to calm the others? Spillover effects of incarceration among criminal groups: Job Market Paper," TSE Working Papers 17-840, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    2. Leonardo Bursztyn & Robert Jensen, 2015. "How Does Peer Pressure Affect Educational Investments?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(3), pages 1329-1367.
    3. Philippe, Arnaud, 2017. "Incarcerate one to calm the others? Spillover effects of incarceration among criminal groups: Job Maket Paper," IAST Working Papers 17-70, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
    4. Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain & Steven G. Rivkin, 2009. "New Evidence about Brown v. Board of Education: The Complex Effects of School Racial Composition on Achievement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(3), pages 349-383, July.
    5. Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2010. "The Importance of Segregation, Discrimination, Peer Dynamics, and Identity in Explaining Trends in the Racial Achievement Gap," NBER Working Papers 16257, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Fischer, Stefanie & Stoddard, Christiana, 2013. "The academic achievement of American Indians," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 135-152.
    7. repec:eee:eecrev:v:102:y:2018:i:c:p:1-18 is not listed on IDEAS

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