A Community College Instructor Like Me: Race and Ethnicity Interactions in the Classroom

Robert W. Fairlie, Florian Hoffmann, Philip Oreopoulos

NBER Working Paper No. 17381
Issued in September 2011, Revised in August 2014
NBER Program(s):Children, Economics of Education, Labor Studies

Detailed administrative data from a large and diverse community college are used to examine if academic performance depends on whether students are the same race or ethnicity as their instructors. To identify racial interactions and address many threats to internal validity we estimate models that include both student and classroom fixed effects. Given the large sample sizes and computational complexity of the 2-way fixed effects model we rely on numerical algorithms that exploit the particular structure of the model's normal equations. Although we find no evidence of endogenous sorting, we further limit potential biases from sorting by focusing on students with restricted course enrollment options due to low registration priorities, students not getting first section choices, and on courses with no within-term or within-year racial variation in instructors. We find that the performance gap in terms of class dropout rates, pass rates, and grade performance between white and underrepresented minority students falls by 20-50 percent when taught by an underrepresented minority instructor. We also find these interactions affect longer term outcomes such as subsequent course selection, retention, and degree completion. Potential mechanisms for these positive interactions are examined.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17381

Fairlie, Robert W., Florian Hoffmann, and Philip Oreopoulos. "A community college instructor like me: Race and ethnicity interactions in the classroom" American Economic Review (forthcoming) citation courtesy of

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