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The Sociological Quarterly

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Inequality, Racial disparity, Education -- Social aspects -- United States, People with disabilities -- Social conditions -- Research


The disproportionate placement of racial minorities and males into special education for learning disabilities (LDs) raises concerns that classifications occur inaccurately or inequitably. This study uses data from the Education Longitudinal Survey of 2002 to investigate the social etiology of LD classifications that persist into adolescence. Findings suggest the overclassification of racial minorities is largely consistent with (clinically relevant) differences in educational performance. Classifications may occur inconsistently or subjectively, with clinically irrelevant qualities like school characteristics and linguistic-immigration history independently predictive of disability classification. Finally, classifications may be partially biased, with male overclassification largely unexplained by this study’s measures and racial minorities’ risk of classification increased in schools with fewer minorities (the latter not statistically significant).


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Dara Shifrer (2018) Clarifying the Social Roots of the Disproportionate Classification of Racial Minorities and Males with Learning Disabilities, The Sociological Quarterly, which has been published in final form at: . This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.



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