The Impact of Community Diversity and Consolidated Inequality on Dropping Out of High School

AuthorJudith R. Blau,Gary L. Bowen,Richard A. Van Dorn
Published date01 January 2006
Date01 January 2006
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2006.00360.x
The Impact of Community Diversity and
Consolidated Inequality on Dropping
Out of High School
Richard A. Van Dorn Gary L. Bowen Judith R. Blau*
Abstract: Data from the National Education Longitudinal Study were combined with census data at the zip code
level to examine the impact of neighborhood racial and ethnic diversity and consolidated inequality, in addition
to individual, family, and school factors, on the likelihood of dropping out of high school. Results indicate that
while the effects for diversity and consolidated inequality did not support the stated hypotheses, main effects for
family risk and prior academic achievement were significant and in the stated direction. Also, when controll-
ing for individual, family, school, and neighborhood characteristics, African Americans were less likely than
White students to drop out of school. Implications for contextual effects research and educational outcomes are
discussed.
Key Words: community, consolidated inequality, context, diversity, dropout, multilevel.
Inductively, we know that youngsters’ schooling
outcomes depend on their social contexts—the
neighborhoods in which they live—as well as their
school contexts, but social science methods have
struggled to capture these effects. This investigation
seeks to take into account both community and
school contextual effects through the use of hierar-
chical linear modeling procedures that incorporate
various theoretically justified constructs into the
study of dropping out of school. Specifically, data
from the National Education Longitudinal Study
(NELS) were utilized to examine the impact of
neighborhood diversity and consolidated inequality,
in addition to individual, family, and school factors,
on the likelihood of dropping out of high school.
The relevance of studying the relationship between
contextual effects and educational outcomes cannot
be overstated, especially because youngsters grow up
in such dramatically different communities, some
very poor and some very affluent, some very segre-
gated and some that are highly integrated.
Context
The overall dropout rate defined as 16- to 24-year-
olds who, regardless of when they left school, have
not completed high school or a general educational
development (GED) program, has decreased from
approximately 15% in 1971 to approximately 11%
in 1999 (National Center for Education Statistics
[NCES], 2000). However, these overall percentages
mask important racial/ethnic group differences. In
1999, 31% and 26% of Hispanic men and women,
respectively, were considered dropouts, whereas
13% of both African American men and women
were similarly classified. In contrast, 7% of both
White men and women were identified as dropouts
(NCES, 2000).
Though dropout rates have decreased for His-
panics, African Americans, and Whites of both
sexes, concern still exists about not only the magni-
tude of the rates but also about the differential
*Richard A. Van Dorn is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center, 905 W. Main
Street, Suite 23A, Durham, NC 27710 (richard.vandorn@duke.edu). Gary L. Bowen is a Kenan Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill. Judith R. Blau is a Professor at the University of North Carolina.
Family Relations, 55 (January 2006), 105–118. Blackwell Publishing.
Copyright 2006 by the National Council on Family Relations.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT