Experimental Evidence on Race and Class Bias in K-12 Public School Principals:
An Audit Study of Bias in American Schooling
Charles Crabtree, Political Science, Penn State,
Holger L. Kern, Political Science, Florida State University
On April 12th 12 Noon in Savery 409
As part of the Department of Sociology and the Earl & Edna Stice Lecture Series Professors Crabtree and Kern will be presenting work on their recent audit study experiment to explore bias in American Schools.
We count on public schools to protect the interests of all the children in our society and evidence of discrimination would raise very significant questions about one of the fundamental institutions of American democracy. Sociologists have done important field experiments that explore the extent to which racial biases affect a host of outcomes. Some of the most influential have examined the effect of race or criminal records on the likelihood of private employers to respond to a job application, others have explored discrimination in housing markets and in other domains. What sociologists have not looked at through audit studies is whether or not bias affects how public officials perform their jobs. Do we find similar patterns of bias in public services? No large-scale systematic evidence exists about the prevalence or extent of these biases in public domains. Our study examines whether a very common and very consequential class of public officials -- public school principals -- exhibit bias in audit studies. The consequences are far-ranging, since education is a primary factor in the generation of occupational and income stratification and the primary instrument for formal socialization in American society.
We conducted a large-scale audit experiment to examine the racial and class biases of K-12 public school principals. Posing as the parent of a potential student, we emailed a sample of K-12 public school principals with an appointment request. Our experimental sample consists of 52,803 K-12 public
school principals from 33 states. The results suggest that, while biases can be discerned, they are conditional on local patterns of segregation at both the school district and county levels. These results further suggest
that the benefits of integration go beyond the issue of school access.