EdPolicyWorks Speaker Series: Jayanti Owens

The Role of Racial/Ethnic Similarity in Reducing the Effects of Bias in Behavioral Evaluations for Routine Misbehavior at School

  • - EST
  • Holloway Hall (Bavaro 116)


Demographic similarity can reduce bias in formal evaluations across wide-ranging organizational contexts, but existing research focuses largely on a Black/White paradigm. In the wake of Latinx and Asian population growth, this study advances our understanding of how demographic similarity versus difference beyond Black and White shapes racial/ethnic disproportionality in the sanctioning of identical routine misbehavior in schools. To examine the interracial/ethnic dynamics of bias, I apply social science theories of racial hierarchy to the literature on homophily in formal organizational evaluations. I leverage data from an original video vignette experiment with a national sample of 2,512 teacher-evaluators in 1,358 U.S. schools. Teachers view and evaluate identical, routine misbehavior by a randomly assigned Black, Latino, or White boy. I find that White teachers exhibit anti-Black and anti-Latino bias. Consistent with homophily, this bias is absent among Black and Latino teachers, who evaluate in-group boys similarly to White boys. Yet, given their respective positions in the U.S. ethnoracial hierarchy, certain Black teachers evaluate all students more negatively than White teachers in the same schools, while Latinx and Asian teachers exhibit anti-Black bias. To explore mechanisms, I link evaluations to school racial/ethnic composition and individual teacher factors, including experience and psychological perceptions of social distance. While schools are important public organizations with sufficient evaluator diversity to enable testing of interracial/ethnic evaluations, findings have implications for how in-group preferences can both reproduce the racial hierarchy of broader society while being structured by the features of one’s organizational context.


EdPolicyWorks Speaker, Jayanti Owens

Jayanti Owens is an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management. Owens’ research examines how organizations ranging from schools to professional services firms negotiate diversity and difference. Using methods ranging from social experiments to analysis of text data and large scale surveys and administrative records, her work advances understanding of how evaluation practices can reproduce racial/ethnic and gender stratification. Within her work to understand the factors driving social inequality in schools, she has studied cases ranging from the medicalization of student behaviors through diagnoses of ADHD to the mechanisms and organizational contexts associated with racial/ethnic disparities in school discipline. Jayanti’s research has appeared in outlets including American Sociological Review, Social Forces, Sociology of Education, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and Social Science & Medicine. It has been featured in NPR, BBC News, US News & World Report, Forbes, The Telegraph (UK), and Business Insider. Her work has received awards from the Organizations, Occupations, and Work, the Sociology of Education, and the Disability and Society sections of the American Sociological Association. She is a recipient of the William T. Grant Scholars Award and the Foundation for Child Development Young Scholars Award. At Yale SOM, Jayanti is a Faculty Affiliate of The Broad Center for Transformative Leadership in Public Education. Prior to coming to Yale, Jayanti was on faculty at Brown University.

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