Disproportionate Labeling of Learning Disabilities: Race and Socioeconomic Status

Dara R. Shifrer, University of Texas at Austin

The disproportionate labeling of racial minorities with learning disabilities (LD) may compound the educational struggles of students who are already socially disadvantaged. Policy reform depends upon empirically establishing the social and structural roots of disproportionality. This study is among the first to use both student and school level measures from a large nationally representative dataset to explore the socio-demographic, academic, and contextual correlates of racial disproportionality. We find that black adolescents are more likely to carry the label of LD because of their relative socioeconomic disadvantage. On the other hand, Hispanic adolescents appear to be disproportionately labeled with LD because of language minorities' heightened risk of being labeled. Students attending higher poverty schools are generally less likely to be labeled with LD, whereas black students are at higher risk of carrying the label of LD in high schools in which they are a minority.

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Presented in Poster Session 1