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Sociological Perspectives






According to the influential “oppositional culture” account, we should expect black students as a group to be less likely to engage in school than their white counterparts because they are more likely to believe and act in opposition to academics. In contrast to this prediction, qualitative and quantitative researchers have almost uniformly deduced that black students hold similar or higher educational values, attitudes, and expectations as compared with whites. I pull from the rich literature on racial differences in educational attitudes and expectations to posit that instead of black students shirking education, black students are actually more likely to act in favor of education, and that this might help explain their higher net rates of college attendance as indicated in prior research. Using the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS), I find that black students’ higher rates of engagement in college-going behaviors mediate the relationship between race and college attendance so that race is no longer a significant predictor of attendance. Implications for how these results can address racial disparities in college attendance are discussed.