Barnard Study Links Gender, Academic Success Among Mexican Americans
Barnard sociology professor Dr. Robert Smith’s research shows that Mexican American females are more selective when it comes to education than their male counterparts.
Interestingly, Smith’s research connects the role of gender and how it leads to academic promise or academic failure.
“One of the most interesting things about this research was how gender shaped boys’ and girls’ experiences of their ethnicity differently in every sphere of life we studied — at school, at home, and in the community — and how these different experiences affected academic performance,” Smith says.
Smith’s research, which was based in New York City, shows that Mexican American females choose high schools that ensure greater academic success and ethnic diversity. In addition to being selective with their high school education, Mexican American females are expected to return home after school to care for their younger siblings and help with housework. Smith concludes this enables Mexican American females to be upwardly mobile professionally and to hold jobs that require communication and team-building skills.
On the contrary, Smith’s research shows that Mexican American males are going in the opposite direction. Mexican American males do little or no research when it comes to selecting a high school to attend, according to Smith. Usually, they attend local zoned schools where there is little ethnic diversity. When it comes to after-school activities, Mexican American females and males differ. While females are expected to watch over younger siblings and help with housework, the males have no responsibility, giving them unstructured time, which often leads to joining gangs and eventually dropping out of high school.
The study was presented last month at the “Latinos at the Crossroads” conference sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. Smith’s research also is published in the newly released book Latinos: Remaking America, edited by Marcelo M. Suarez-Orozco and Mariela Paez from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
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