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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Undergraduate race /ethnicity unknowns: Demographics, reasons for nondisclosure, attitudes, and preferences regarding postsecondary admissions criteria
by Kelly, Michael Cronin, Ph.D., University of South Carolina, 2008, 207; 3336696
Abstract (Summary)

National data show that the population of undergraduate students who do not disclose their race/ethnicity to U.S. colleges and universities (termed "race/ethnicity unknowns," "unknowns," or "REUs") rose from 2.8% in 1991, when the reporting category was first permitted by the U.S. Department of Education, to 6.2% by 2004 (Cook & Cordova, 2007; Harvey & Anderson, 2005). Growth in the number of race/ethnicity unknowns undermines the ability of postsecondary institutions to comply with civil rights laws and achieve structural diversity. Where structural diversity is diminished, the prospects for students to reap educational, cultural, and interpersonal benefits from attending college with diverse persons are likewise diminished (Chang, Astin, & Kim, 2004; Pascarella, Palmer, Moye, & Pierson, 2001; Pike, Kuh, & Gonyea, 2007).

This study sought to ascertain the demographic characteristics of REUs, uncover reasons for nondisclosure of race/ethnicity, explore whether attitudes toward affirmative action factor into nondisclosure, and discover what types of criteria REUs believe should be considered most important in postsecondary admissions decisions. These four research areas were explored through an approach that considered individual college choice models and environmental contexts, and viewed the phenomenon through the lenses of Realistic Group Conflict theory, Bounded Rationality theory, and Social Identity theory, especially as the latter pertains to disclosure of hidden identities (Clair, Beatty, & MacLean, 2005). The researcher proposed a Conceptual Model of the Decision to Disclose Race/Ethnicity, and assessed the model using a new survey instrument.

Results demonstrated that a large portion of the REU study sample was White (67.1%); that the vast majority expected to enroll in competitive postsecondary institutions (85.1%); and that the overall sample was politically left/center (76.9%). To explain nondisclosure, REUs most frequently cited a belief that race/ethnicity does not matter (33.6%), that race/ethnicity might be a disadvantage to them in college admissions (19.2%), and that race/ethnicity is used for affirmative action, which they do not support (13.1%). Survey respondents overwhelmingly opposed extending affirmative action to a variety of demographic or "affinity" groups, and expressed a strong preference for admissions decisions to be based upon meritocratic criteria.

Although few studies pertaining to the REU phenomenon have been presented in the literature, the findings of this study present a demographic portrait of these college-bound students and provide a theoretical framework for understanding why they choose to not disclosure their race/ethnicity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Maher, Michelle A.
Commitee: Plyler, Chris P., Pruitt, Dennis A., Shaw, Todd C.
School: University of South Carolina
Department: Educational Administration
School Location: United States -- South Carolina
Source: DAI-A 69/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational administration, Ethnic studies, Higher education
Keywords: Admissions criteria, Affirmative action, Diversity, Identity nondisclosure, Postsecondary, Race/ethnicity unknown (REU), Racial identity, Realistic group conflict theory, Undergraduate
Publication Number: 3336696
ISBN: 978-0-549-90422-9
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