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Do School Counselors Exhibit Bias in Recommending Students for Advanced Coursework?

  • Dania V. Francis EMAIL logo , Angela C. M. de Oliveira and Carey Dimmitt


In this paper, we seek to understand minority and female underrepresentation in advanced STEM courses in high school by investigating whether school counselors exhibit racial or gender bias during the course assignment process. Using an adapted audit study, we asked a sample of school counselors to evaluate student transcripts that were identical except for the names on the transcripts, which were varied randomly to suggestively represent a chosen race and gender combination. Our results indicate that black female students were less likely to be recommended for AP Calculus and were rated as being the least prepared. Our results have policy implications for any program that asks individuals to make recommendations that may be subject to bias – whether conscious or unconscious.

JEL Classification: D90; I24; J15; J16

Funding statement: This work was supported by a research grant from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UMass Amherst and approved under UMass IRB Protocol ID: 2016-3031.


We would like to thank the participants at multiple workshops and seminars at UMass Amherst, UCONN, Teachers College, and The Brookings Institution for their helpful comments and suggestions.


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