Dissertation Abstracts

Discrimination in Education: Methodology, Theory, and Empirics of Teachers' Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discriminatory Behavior

Author: Sebastian E Wenz, sewenz@gmail.com
Department: Social Sciences, Economics, and Business Administration
University: University of Bamberg, Germany
Supervisor: Cornelia Kristen
Year of completion: 2017
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Discrimination , Teachers , Prejudice , Stereotypes
Areas of Research: Education , Social Psychology , Stratification


In his dissertation on discrimination in education, Sebastian E. Wenz makes methodological, theoretical, and empirical contributions to the study of discriminatory behavior by teachers towards students of different ethnicity, social class background, and gender. In the introductory chapter, Wenz reviews different motivations to study discrimination in education and beyond. In chapter 2, Wenz provides an in-depth discussion of numerous definitions of discrimination using directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) and suggests to define discrimination as total causal effect of an information about or a signal sent out by an individual on how this individual is treated by another individual. He explains how this definition avoids problems many other definitions of discrimination suffer from. In chapter 3, Wenz summarizes the potentials and limitations of theoretical approaches from different disciplines to explain discrimination on the individual level and inequality between groups in the education system. In his discussion he covers taste discrimination, models of statistical discrimination, institutional discrimination, social identity theory, the continuum model, and aversive racism. In the empirical part of the book, Wenz examines the two major determinants of discrimination—prejudice and stereotypes—using data from the German General Social Survey (GGSS/ALLBUS) and the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS). In chapter 4, Wenz replicates the finding that teachers in Germany hold attitudes that are biased against Turks. He also finds that teachers are negatively prejudiced against Eastern Europeans, but not Italians. In chapter 5, he shows that teachers' stereotypes are somewhat biased to the disadvantage of boys compared to girls, and more so to the disadvantage of students from lower social class families, immigrants in general, as well as immigrants of Turkish and Russian origin in particular. In chapter 6 Wenz presents his major empirical contribution: An experimental study of ethnic, social class, and gender discrimination with a random sample of over 200 elementary school teachers. Addressing several shortcomings of prior research, he finds no evidence for discrimination in grading. However, the findings for teachers' expectations of children's future performance suggest a discriminatory bias along the lines of both ethnicity and social class but not gender. Ethnic and social class discrimination are conditional on essay quality—they are found only for the better of two essays supposedly written by students of different background. Wenz interprets these findings as evidence for models that highlight situational moderators such as the richness of information and ambiguity but as evidence against simpler models of ingroup-favoritism or outgroup derogation. In chapter 7, Wenz concludes by suggesting several routes future research should take to gather more evidence on discrimination in education, its determinants and consequences.