Stereotype threat and academic performance: New Findings from a Racially Diverse Sample of College Freshmen

Douglas S. Massey, Mary J. Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


The theory of stereotype threat was developed to account for persistent minority underachievement in American colleges and universities. It hypothesizes that members of minority groups underperform academically because of unconscious fears of living up to negative group stereotypes. While evidence pertaining to stereotype threat has been positive, it mostly comes from small experimental studies of selected undergraduate subjects at a few universities. In this paper we test the theory of stereotype threat on a large, representative population of college and university students. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen, which surveyed nearly 4,000 students at twenty-eight academic institutions, we construct scales to measure stereotype threat and use them to predict grades. We uncover a clear process of disidentification in response to minority stereotyping and show how it, along with other theoretically specified mechanisms, undermines the grade performance of minorities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-67
Number of pages23
JournalDu Bois Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Disidentification
  • Higher Education
  • Minority Performance
  • Racial Identity
  • Stereotype Threat


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