Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Educational Achievement and Aspirations: Findings from a Statewide Survey from 1998 to 2010

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Educational achievement and attainment are associated with health outcomes across the entire life span. The objective of this study was to determine whether racial/ethnic disparities in academic achievement and educational aspirations have changed over time. The study used data from the Minnesota Student Survey (MSS) from 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007, and 2010. The MSS is administered to adolescents in public secondary schools, charter schools, and tribal schools. Measures of academic achievement and educational aspirations were examined by race/ethnicity, poverty status, and family structure. Chi square tests evaluated differences in the above proportions. The analytic sample included 351,510 adolescents (1998, N = 67,239; 2001, N = 69,177; 2004, N = 71,084; 2007, N = 72,312; and 2010, N = 71,698). Study participants ranged in age from 13 to 19 years (mean = 15.9, SD = 1.6). Most were white (81.7 %), followed by 5.4 % Asian American/Pacific Islander, 4.3 % Black/African American, 2.7 % Hispanic/Latino, 1 % American Indian, and 4.9 % mixed race. Results showed that academic achievement fluctuated amongst all the racial/ethnic groups, but there were significant race/ethnic disparities at every time point. Overall, academic aspirations increased over time among the adolescents. Poverty was associated with poorer academic indicators for white youth, but not consistently for other racial/ethnic groups of youth. Family structure, however, was significantly associated with the educational indicators across all racial and ethnic groups. Despite many efforts to improve educational outcomes, there remain significant disparities in educational achievement and aspirations related to race-ethnicity and social status. Findings have implications for efforts to improve adolescent health at both individual and community levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-66
Number of pages9
JournalMaternal and child health journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is supported by National Research Service Award (NRSA) in Primary Medical Care, Grant No. T32HP22239 (PI: Borowsky), Bureau of Health Professions, Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Academic achievement
  • Adolescent health
  • Educational aspirations
  • Health disparities
  • Racial and ethnic disparities


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