Discrimination and academic (dis)engagement of ethnic-racial minority students: a social identity threat perspective

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In this paper we discuss the social identity processes by which discrimination can have an impact on ethnic-racial minority group students’ academic engagement. After considering the forms, targets and sources of discrimination, we argue that discrimination implies social identity threat. Threats to ethnic/racial identity compromise specific social identity needs (belongingness, esteem, control) which relate to important motives for academic engagement and performance. Minority students seek to cope with their threatened ethnic/racial identity, and increased engagement as well as protective disengagement with the academic domain, at both the individual level and the group level, are discussed as coping strategies. We also briefly consider the possible moderating roles of individual differences in the subjective importance of one’s ethnic or racial group membership, and of three classroom characteristics: classroom composition, student–teacher relation, and multicultural education. We conclude by providing directions for future research and consider some practical implications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-290
JournalSocial Psychology of Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Discrimination
  • Academic engagement
  • minority students


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