We introduce the concept of stress disparities (systematic differences in perceived and biological stress across sub-groups of students) and hypothesize that stress disparities may help to account for disparities in academic outcomes. We propose to measure and test associations among race-based stress (RBSS, such as perceived racial discrimination), stress biology (cortisol daily rhythms and sleep hours and quality) and academic outcomes in 300 students followed for 4 years in a diverse high school. To provide experimental insights, we will implement an intervention designed to promote ethnic-racial identity (ERI) development, which we hypothesize will reduce the impacts of RBSS on stress biology and improve academic outcomes, particularly for minority youth. We will assess RBSS, ERI, cortisol, sleep, cognitive functioning, emotional and academic adjustment, and achievement in the Fall of 9th grade, prior to our intervention in the Spring of 9th grade, and again in the 10th grade. Data on youth adjustment, achievement and attainment will be gathered through the 12th grade. Regression, multilevel and structural equation models will test cross-sectional, longitudinal and experimental hypotheses. The proposed study will help launch new directions in the study of educational disparities, by highlighting the importance of stress disparities and stress biology in academic outcomes.
Emma Adam and Mesmin Destin (Northwestern University)
Adriana Umaña-Taylor (Harvard Graduate School of Education)
Funding Source: Spencer Foundation, Lyle Spencer Research Award #10009486