The Benefits of Difference-Education Interventions in Lower-Resourced Institutions

Nicole M. Stephens, Sarah S.M. Townsend, Rebecca M. Carey, Mar Yam G. Hamedani, Tiffany N. Brannon, Mary C. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Difference-education is an intervention that addresses psychological barriers that can undermine the academic performance of first-generation college students (i.e., those who have parents without 4-year degrees). Difference-education interventions improve first-generation students’ performance by empowering them to navigate higher education environments more effectively. They also improve students’ comfort with social group difference. However, these benefits have only been documented in higher-resourced institutions. The present research asks two questions about whether these benefits also extend to lower-resourced institutions—that is, schools with fewer resources to invest in students than the universities where prior difference-education interventions were delivered. First, is difference-education effective in improving firstgeneration students’ academic performance in lower-resourced institutions, and does it do so by increasing empowerment? Second, does difference-education improve comfort with social group difference in lowerresourced institutions, and is it unique in its ability to do so? With students from four lower-resourced institutions, we examined these questions by comparing the results of a difference-education intervention to a control condition and social-belonging intervention. We found that while some benefits of difference-education interventions extend to lower-resourced institutions, others do not. First, like prior interventions, difference-education improves first-generation students’ academic performance and comfort with social group difference. Unlike prior interventions, these effects did not persist beyond the first term and students’ academic performance benefits were not explained by empowerment. We also found partial evidence that the benefits for comfort with social group difference were unique compared to a social-belonging intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-417
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 30 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


  • achievement gap
  • difference-education
  • intervention
  • social class


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