The Source of the River

The Source of the River: The Social Origins of Freshmen at America's Selective Colleges and Universities

Douglas S. Massey
Camille Z. Charles
Garvey F. Lundy
Mary J. Fischer
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7rtz5
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    The Source of the River
    Book Description:

    African Americans and Latinos earn lower grades and drop out of college more often than whites or Asians. Yet thirty years after deliberate minority recruitment efforts began, we still don't know why. InThe Shape of the River, William Bowen and Derek Bok documented the benefits of affirmative action for minority students, their communities, and the nation at large. But they also found that too many failed to achieve academic success. InThe Source of the River, Douglas Massey and his colleagues investigate the roots of minority underperformance in selective colleges and universities. They explain how such factors as neighborhood, family, peer group, and early schooling influence the academic performance of students from differing racial and ethnic origins and differing social classes.

    Drawing on a major new source of data--the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen--the authors undertake a comprehensive analysis of the diverse pathways by which whites, African Americans, Latinos, and Asians enter American higher education. Theirs is the first study to document the different characteristics that students bring to campus and to trace out the influence of these differences on later academic performance. They show that black and Latino students do not enter college disadvantaged by a lack of self-esteem. In fact, overconfidence is more common than low self-confidence among some minority students. Despite this, minority students are adversely affected by racist stereotypes of intellectual inferiority. Although academic preparation is the strongest predictor of college performance, shortfalls in academic preparation are themselves largely a matter of socioeconomic disadvantage and racial segregation.

    Presenting important new findings,The Source of the Riverdocuments the ongoing power of race to shape the life chances of America's young people, even among the most talented and able.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4076-2
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER 1 THE PUZZLE OF MINORITY UNDERACHIEVEMENT
    (pp. 1-19)

    Prior to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, racial and ethnic minorities were substantially excluded from U.S. higher education. African Americans, in particular, were barred from most colleges and universities by a combination of de jure and de facto mechanisms, and they faced particularly severe barriers at the nation’s most selective institutions. If they were able to go to college at all, it was to a historically black college or university. Although several elite private institutions such as Howard, Morehouse, and Spelman provided excellent training for the sons and daughters of the black elite, most African Americans were relegated...

  6. CHAPTER 2 SAMPLE AND METHODOLOGY
    (pp. 20-45)

    The national longitudinal survey of Freshmen was developed to provide comprehensive data to test different theoretical explanations for minority underachievement in higher education. Rather than prejudging the validity of any single point of view, we sought to develop a broad database capable of testing each conceptual model, assessing its explanatory power, and specifying the circumstances under which it might apply. Specifically, the NLSF sought to measure the academic and social progress of college students at regular intervals to capture emergent psychological processes hypothesized by investigators such as Steele and Ogbu, while measuring the degree of social integration and intellectual engagement...

  7. CHAPTER 3 FAMILY ORIGINS
    (pp. 46-69)

    As they grow older, children successively experience an increasing array of ecological contexts—social settings that include widening sets of people, materials, ideas, and experiences. The character of these changing ecological contexts—and how they are experienced—plays an important role in shaping the sort of person a child eventually becomes (Bronfenbrenner 1979). Basic ecological contexts include neighborhood, school, work, and peer settings, but the earliest and most enduring ecological context is the home itself, which includes the people, things, attitudes, and behaviors encountered within a child’s household of origin. The home environment is particularly important in the lives of...

  8. CHAPTER 4 NEIGHBORHOOD BACKGROUND
    (pp. 70-86)

    Despite the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 and more than two decades of civil rights enforcement, when it comes to residence African Americans are still a remarkably segregated people. Indeed, blacks in large urbanized areas experience higher levels of segregation than any other group in the history of the United States—more than ethnic European immigrants early in the twentieth century and more than Asians and Latinos today. In a subset of large metropolitan areas that house nearly 40% of all African Americans, the segregation of blacks is so intense and occurs on so many geographic dimensions...

  9. CHAPTER 5 PRIOR EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES
    (pp. 87-108)

    Although school comes after home and neighborhood in the order experienced while growing up, it is probably a more important ecological setting for determining social and economic outcomes—maybe even more important than the family. Not only is school where young people receive formal instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic; it is also the venue in which in which they develop friendships, interact with peers, acquire values, and are socialized into the ways of human interaction (Coleman 1961; Coleman, Hoffer, and Kilgore 1982). In terms of sheer time spent, moreover, school dwarfs other childhood and adolescent settings.

    For these reasons...

  10. CHAPTER 6 THE SOCIAL WORLD OF HIGH SCHOOL
    (pp. 109-132)

    As children grow older, parents and teachers usually feel their relative power ebb, only to be replaced by the rising influence of peers (Rich 1998). The process of peer socialization starts as soon as the child leaves home and begins to interact with other children of the same age—in day care, preschool, or kindergarten. Sensitivity to the opinions of peers gradually increases through primary school and becomes paramount in adolescence. The emergence of a distinctive adolescent peer culture—one that is simultaneously distinct from that of childhood and separate from the world of adults—is a hallmark of modern...

  11. CHAPTER 7 RACIAL IDENTITY AND ATTITUDES
    (pp. 133-154)

    Societal messages about the presumed superiority or inferiority of various racial or ethnic groups influence our perceptions, both of ourselves and of others (Fiske and Taylor 1991). As such, racial attitudes are crucial to the development of self-identity, especially for minority group members. As the dominant group in society, European-origin whites often reach adulthood without ever considering their own racial identity. For them, being white is just “normal” (Tatum 1997). Whites are more likely to see themselves as individuals, a view that is consistent with dominant American ideologies of individualism and meritocracy, and, hence, more conducive to academic success (Kluegel...

  12. CHAPTER 8 PATHWAYS TO PREPARATION
    (pp. 155-183)

    The foregoing chapters have documented many differences in the social, economic, and cultural backgrounds of white, Asian, Latino, and African American freshmen entering selective colleges and universities in the fall of 1999. Although these students all entered the gates of America’s most elite institutions, the paths by which they did so were varied. Our respondents were raised with divergent parenting styles in different kinds of families, and radically contrasting school and neighborhood environments that offered very different rates of exposure to disorder and violence and contrasting peer cultures. All of the foregoing factors can be expected to bear on the...

  13. CHAPTER 9 SINK OR SWIM: THE FIRST SEMESTER
    (pp. 184-196)

    Even after controlling for background differences with respect to family, neighborhood, school, and peer environments, we find that significant differences between groups persist along a variety of dimensions of preparation for higher education. In this chapter we measure the degree to which variation in background and preparation across groups translates into differentials in academic performance during the first semester of college study. Our purpose in doing so is to assess how much of the intergroup variation in early performance may be attributed to traits and characteristics that students brought with them the day they set foot on campus. At this...

  14. CHAPTER 10 LESSONS LEARNED
    (pp. 197-208)

    It is hardly surprising that we have failed to explain away all the intergroup differences in academic performance. After all, we focused only on traits and characteristics that respondents brought with them when they arrived on campus. Although our documentation of differences between whites, Asians, Latinos, and blacks with respect to family, neighborhood, school, and peer circumstances was rather exhaustive, and even though we developed detailed data about their attitudes, expectations, and values, we only considered performance during the very first term of college, which is bound to be a bit of an experiment. We also made no effort to...

  15. APPENDIX A. SURVEY OF COLLEGE LIFE AND EXPERIENCE: FIRST-WAVE INSTRUMENT
    (pp. 209-250)
  16. APPENDIX B. CONSTRUCTION OF SOCIAL SCALES
    (pp. 251-268)
  17. REFERENCES
    (pp. 269-278)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 279-283)