By Lucas Hubbard

January 27, 2022

DURHAM, N.C. – One of the leading explanations for the Black-white academic achievement gap might need updating.

Stereotype threat, the fear of confirming negative stereotypes about the group to which one belongs, has long been identified as a contributing factor, with past research indicating that Black students do worse on tests when they are first reminded of their race.

But a new study co-authored by William A. “Sandy” Darity Jr., a professor of public policy and economics at Duke, found that threat to have no effect on a previously underexamined cohort: HBCU students.

“The results of this study, although based solely on experimental findings at a single Historically Black College and University (HBCU), lead us to ask whether the HBCU experience insulates Black students from susceptibility to stereotype threat,” said Darity, a co-author and founding director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity.