By Isheka N. Harrison

January 31, 2022

Renowned economist and Duke University Professor Dr. William “Sandy” Darity Jr. co-authored a study that shows negative racial stereotypes have little to no impact on the performance of Black students who attend historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, the study relied on data from lab experiments at a Texas-based HBCU that looked specifically at how negative stereotypes – including the belief that Black people are less intelligent than their white counterparts – affected students’ performance.

During their research, Darity, the study’s lead author Mackenzie Alston and other researchers asked Black students 18 questions from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). Prior to answering the questions, the students were told the tests were to measure their intelligence and asked about their race or ethnicity.

They found that while prior studies have shown these factors have an impact at predominately white institutions (PWI), reinforcing the same stereotypes at HBCUs didn’t.

“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, who specializes in public policy and economics and is the founding director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity.